Surging Twins Win; Close in on First

Thursday, September 14th 2006, 10:29 pm
By: News On 6

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Torii Hunter and Rondell White homered on consecutive pitches in the eighth inning to help the surging Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 9-4 Thursday night and pull within one game of first place.

The Twins' sixth victory in seven tries moved them two games ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the wild-card race and one game behind the faltering Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. The last time Minnesota was within one game of first place was the second day of the season, April 5.

Hunter drove in four runs and finished with three hits, and White also had three hits. The win gave the Twins a lift one day after they learned that rookie sensation Francisco Liriano is done for the season because of an injury to his pitching arm.

General manager Terry Ryan said an MRI showed no structural damage to Liriano's left elbow, but added the Twins will be ultraconservative with the rookie, who went 12-3 with a 2.19 ERA. ``We have to find out why he's having pain,'' Ryan said. ``We're not going to mess around with his future.''

Jesse Crain (4-5) yielded a tying, three-run homer to Andy Marte in the sixth, but worked 1 1-3 innings for the win.

Despite stranding a season-high 16 baserunners against nine Cleveland pitchers, the Twins improved to 36-36 on the road. Minnesota, with baseball's best home record at 50-24, plays its next nine games on the road.

Nick Punto put the Twins ahead, 5-4, with a sacrifice fly in the seventh off Jason Davis (3-2).

Hunter hit a two-run homer, his 25th, and White hit the next pitch from Fernando Cabrera to nearly the same spot in the left-field bleachers for his seventh homer and an 8-4 lead.

Michael Cuddyer had a bases-loaded walk for his 100th RBI and Justin Morneau followed with a fielder's choice RBI in the sixth to put the Twins up 4-1.

Cuddyer and Morneau, who has 121 RBIs, are the ninth set of Twins in team history to drive in 100 or more runs in the same season and first since Paul Molitor and Marty Cordova did it in 1996.

Minnesota made it 2-1 in the fifth against reliever Brian Sikorski. Morneau singled and scored on a one-out double to left by White, who went 3-for-5.

Victor Martinez's RBI single off Twins starter Boof Bonser put Cleveland ahead 1-0 in the first.

The Twins tied it in the third against Indians starter Cliff Lee. Morneau hit a two-out double and scored on Hunter's sharp single.

Lee threw 102 pitches in only four innings, allowing one run and five hits.

Bonser gave up three runs and five hits over 5 2-3 innings, striking out six.

Hunter added an RBI double in the ninth.

Notes: Twins C Joe Mauer drew his 20th intentional walk, tying Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew (1969) for second-most in team history. Killebrew had 23 in 1970. ... Marte has hit .313 (25-for-80) with 16 RBIs in his last 23 games.