MINNEAPOLIS -- Desperate for a spark, the struggling Minnesota Twins turned to some pregame cigar smoke -- and a chopper up the middle -- to get a much-needed win.
Jacque Jones drove in the winning run with a ninth-inning single, lifting the Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
B.J. Ryan blew his fifth save in 26 chances. Three of those have come against Minnesota, which scored twice during a persistent, if not pretty, rally in the final inning.
Before the game, Twins pitchers Carlos Silva and Johan Santana suggested to manager Ron Gardenhire that they puff on some cigars to smoke out the bad spirits that seemed to have sent the three-time AL Central champions into this midsummer funk.
"I'll say OK to just about anything right now," Gardenhire said.
With the Orioles ahead 3-2, Joe Mauer walked with one out, stole second as Shannon Stewart struck out and took third when replacement catcher Eli Whiteside's throw sailed into the outfield for an error. Mauer then scored on a wild pitch by Ryan (1-3).
"I should never have thrown that ball," Whiteside said.
Matthew LeCroy walked, Torii Hunter singled to advance pinch-runner Michael Ryan to third and Jones drove him in with his bouncer up the middle. Shortstop Miguel Tejada fielded the ball but was forced to make an off-balance throw that bounced on the dirt and skidded underneath first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's glove.
"It's just a tough play, a tough hop," Palmeiro said.
A perfect throw probably would've gotten Jones, but Tejada did well just to get a glove on it. And Ryan took the blame for his wildness.
"Walking a guy in the ninth -- you can't do that," he said. "It's going to come back to bite you."
Brian Roberts gave the Orioles the lead with a sacrifice fly to deep right field in the top of the ninth against Jesse Crain (9-1), who moved into the Minnesota lead in victories.
Palmeiro had two more hits, raising his career total to 3,009 and moving into sole possession of 24th place, past Al Kaline, on the career list. Sammy Sosa, Luis Matos, Roberts and Tejada each had two hits, with Tejada and Matos driving in runs in the first and fourth, respectively.
Mauer had two doubles and an RBI for the Twins. Nick Punto also had two hits, including the tying single in the sixth, but he inexplicably bunted toward first base with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth and was easily tagged out.
That "here we go again" feeling spread through the home dugout, but fortunes finally changed in the next inning. Each of Minnesota's games since the All-Star break have been decided by one run, but the Twins have won only two of those -- scoring a total of 16 runs.
"No one's going to quit in here right now," Gardenhire said. "There's too much pride."
The Chicago White Sox lead the division by 12 games, but there is still a wild-card spot to think about. Minnesota is tied with the New York Yankees in that race, with Baltimore a half-game behind.
"We needed that," Hunter said in a lively clubhouse. "It feels great."
Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera was given a 2-0 lead he lost in the sixth when Jones led off with a double. Cabrera yielded to Steve Kline with one out, and Punto tied the game at 2 with a two-out single that cost Cabrera a chance at his fourth straight victory.
He gave up five hits, two runs and four walks in 5 1/3 innings while striking out seven and throwing 106 pitches.
Twins starter Kyle Lohse didn't factor in the decision, either, surrendering 10 hits, two runs and one walk in six innings with one strikeout.
Minnesota made it tougher on itself by running into outs, with rookie Luis Rodriguez, batting leadoff for the first time, getting caught in a rundown between second and third in the first inning and getting thrown out trying to score on a fielder's choice grounder hit by Stewart to third base in the third inning.
Hunter, batting just .200 (10-for-50) this year with runners in scoring position and two outs, struck out on a pitch that bounced in the dirt to end the third and hit a fielder's choice bouncer to shortstop with men at first and third and two outs in the fifth.
But the Twins were more patient at the plate, despite those struggles, which led to the winning rally.
"It's got to come sooner or later," Jones said. "Hopefully it's sooner rather than later."
Hunter stole two bases in the second inning, giving him 21 for the season. His career high is 23. ... Palmeiro has a hit in nine straight games, going 16-for-33 (.485) during that span.