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The Twins gained another game on the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, as they toppled the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 for the second straight day. At 51-42, the Twins now sit 11 games behind the White Sox, and are tied with the New York Yankees for the American League Wild Card.
For the second straight day, Jacque Jones played the role of hero. After driving in the winning run in the ninth inning on Tuesday, Jones blasted a walk-off home run on Wednesday, a solo shot with one out. The dinger made a winner out of Twins’ closer Joe Nathan.
Brad Radke got the start for Minnesota, and pitched very well. He threw seven innings of two-run ball, striking out five and walking none. The one mistake he made was a pitch Rafael Palmerio turned into a two-run home run in the fourth inning. The Orioles would jump out to a 2-0 lead, but then their bats went silent.
The Twins would get on the board in the bottom of the sixth when Nick Punto singled to start the inning. Shannon Stewart then tripled in Punto, and scored on a Joe Mauer ground out. Torii Hunter and Jones would both groundout to end the inning, but the Twin had now made it a 2-2 game.
For Mauer, it was only his second game of the year playing designated hitter. Manager Gardenhire wanted to keep him in the lineup because he has been swinging a hot stick lately. Coming into Wednesday, he had hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games.
After a scoreless seventh and eighth, Miguel Tejada doubled with two outs in the ninth. But Nathan settled down, intentionally walking Palmerio before striking out Sammy Sosa with a nasty slider. That set the stage for Jones’ heroics.
After Jason Grimsley replaced Tim Byrdak, he struck out Hunter for the first out of the inning. That is when Jones came up to bat and recorded his fifth game-winning hit of the season and lifted the Twins to their second straight win. The win gave the Twins the series against Baltimore, and they will send Johan Santana to the hill to face Detroit on Thursday.
The Detroit series will signal the beginning of an 11-game road swing that could make or break the Twins season. Santana has pitched well against the Tigers in the past, compiling a 5-1 record. It will be the first time he faces them this season.
Morneau Looks Lost: Justin Morneau continued his struggles since the All-Star break on Wednesday, as he fell to 0-19 since the break. Although he wants to give him more time to find his stroke, Gardenhire said that the minor leagues is a possibility for his slumping slugger. He better snap out of it quickly if the Twins want to continue to gain ground.
Boone Struggling: The signing of Bret Boone was supposed to ignite the lineup. Instead, he has added to the offensive problems, as he is 4-35 with the Twinkies. In his first six games, he has struck out seven times, but Gardenhire is not worried. Maybe the Mariners were right in letting him go.
A First For Stewart: Shannon Stewart’s triple on Wednesday was his first of the season. The slugger, who has recently been moved from leadoff to the number three slot, is batting .288 this season and has driven in 41 runs.
One Of Eight: Including Wednesday’s win, the Twins have now played in eight straight one runs games. That is the longest streak since 1972, when they played in nine in a row. These are the kind of games that can either make or break a season, and it is nice to see the Twins putting some in the win column.