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Twins motor on to eighth straight victory

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau has arranged to hang out with a friend over the All-Star break. The Twins are hoping he'll have to change his plans.

Morneau and Torii Hunter hit back-to-back home runs, Brad Radke sailed through seven innings and Minnesota beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-2 Friday night for their eighth straight victory.

Morneau became the Minnesota batter to reach 20 home runs by the end of June since Kent Hrbek in 1987. That was also the last season the Twins had someone hit 30 homers, when Hrbek, Tom Brunansky and Gary Gaetti each surpassed that mark.

Joe Mauer, Francisco Liriano and Johan Santana have seized much of the spotlight lately, but the team believes Morneau should receive just as much All-Star game consideration. First base is a crowded position, though. A .288 batting average, 20 homers and 65 RBIs still might not be enough.

"It'd be nice to get in there somehow, but hopefully we can just be more consistent next year and there won't be a question," Morneau said. "Do I feel like I could be there? Yeah, but at the same time, I booked a flight to my buddy's cabin for the All-Star break today. If that changes, it'd be great, but I'm not expecting it."

Terry Tiffee hit a two-run homer for the Twins, who have won 18 of their last 20 games -- including 11 straight at the Metrodome -- and improved to 14-2 in interleague play. Their 28-10 mark at home is baseball's best, and this is their second eight-game winning streak in the last three weeks.

"There's a lot of energy on this ballclub, a lot of things going on, and it's fun to watch," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Radke (7-7), whose stark turnaround has mirrored Minnesota's this month, easily bested Brewers rookie Carlos Villanueva (0-1) by scattering four hits without a walk while striking out four.

Radke, who had a 7.44 ERA after his first 10 starts, improved to 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA in his last seven outings. He retired 10 straight, breaking multiple bats, until Corey Koskie's double in the fifth. Damian Miller drove him in with a single.

But for the fifth time in the last month, the Brewers failed to move above .500.

"We get there, and then we seem to stumble," Geoff Jenkins said. "Hopefully it's just one game and we can get it going again."

Villanueva allowed six hits (all for extra bases), six runs and two walks while striking out three in five innings. Morneau and Hunter each went deep, two pitches apart, in the second.

Making only his second major league start, Villanueva didn't really get in trouble until the fifth when Jason Kubel doubled ahead of Tiffee's homer.

Luis Castillo tripled and Nick Punto doubled him in -- scoring when Michael Cuddyer barely beat out a fielder's choice grounder to Koskie, the Brewers' third baseman.

Koskie slightly bobbled the ball, which cost him a chance to complete the double play and allowed Punto -- perhaps the Twins' fastest player -- to score from second and give his team a 6-1 lead.

Milwaukee manager Ned Yost was livid with first base umpire Brian O'Nora, who coiled in preparation for calling Cuddyer out but stopped and spread his arms wide to signal safe. Yost and O'Nora were brim-to-brim for a few seconds, yelling and pointing, and Yost quickly drew his fifth ejection of the year.

Villanueva twice managed to strike out the leading hitter in the majors, Mauer, who later hit a two-run double against Rick Helling in the seventh.

But the Brewers again struggled to find a suitable pitcher for the back of their rotation. Chris Capuano, Dave Bush and Doug Davis have formed a steady trio at the top, but injuries to ace Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka have forced them to try seven different replacements.

"It seemed like every time I kept the ball up, they capitalized," Villanueva said. "Teams that get hot, things go their way."

Morneau didn't perform up to expectations last year, though he still finished with 22 homers and 79 RBI in his first full major league season. He was still stumbling earlier this month when the Twins finished an awful road trip in Seattle.

Unhappy with Morneau's attitude and approach, Gardenhire pulled his first baseman in for a closed-door meeting. Since, the 25-year-old Canadian has rededicated himself to the game.

"I think he put it best: You get tired of making outs," Gardenhire said. "You have to try to figure out what you need to do to get better as a player and a person."

Notes

  • Sheets, whose right shoulder problems have kept him out for all but four starts, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday. If that goes well, he'll probably pitch in a simulated game soon after.
  • Brewers rookie Chris Barnwell, playing shortstop for Bill Hall, hit an infield single in the eighth for his first major league RBI.
  • Hall, 2-for-16 with 10 strikeouts in his last four games, might get a rest on Saturday, too.
  • Castillo, 9-for-46 in his last 10 games, saved a run for Radke in the second when he backhanded a slow, broken-bat roller hit by Miller up the middle with Carlos Lee at second base. He then fired a perfect off-balance throw to an outstretched Morneau at first.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Torii Hunter goes deep for a solo home run, his 13th, in the second inning.  (AP)
Torii Hunter goes deep for a solo home run, his 13th, in the second inning. (AP)

Players of the Game
Minnesota

B. Radke
IP 7.0
H 4
ER 1
BB 0
K 4
Minnesota

J. Mauer
AB 3
R 0
H 1
HR 0
RBI 2
 

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Milwaukee Brewers
Rickie Weeks, 2B4010011 .280
Chris Barnwell, SS4011011 .167
Geoff Jenkins, RF4000002 .250
Carlos Lee, DH4010001 .283
Prince Fielder, 1B4000000 .283
Corey Koskie, 3B4110011 .267
Damian Miller, C3011011 .265
Gabe Gross, LF2100101 .265
Brady Clark, CF3000001 .271
Totals32252149 
Batting
2B - Corey Koskie (23, Radke)
RBI - Chris Barnwell (1), Damian Miller (26)
2-OUT RBI - Chris Barnwell (1)
SB - Rickie Weeks (17, 2nd base off Radke/Mauer)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
E - Chris Barnwell (1, )
Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Villanueva (L,0-1) 5666233 4.50
Rick Helling 3121220 7.15
IBB - Mauer by Carlos Villanueva
Pitches-Strikes - Carlos Villanueva 98-53, Rick Helling 44-24
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Carlos Villanueva 4-8, Rick Helling 2-6
Batters Faced - Carlos Villanueva 23, Rick Helling 13
Minnesota Twins
Luis Castillo, 2B4210001 .271
Nick Punto, 3B3211111 .282
Joe Mauer, C3012121 .392
Michael Cuddyer, RF4001011 .268
Justin Morneau, 1B4111002 .288
Torii Hunter, CF4111011 .265
Jason Kubel, LF3110100 .292
    Lew Ford, LF0000000 .216
Terry Tiffee, DH4112001 .265
Jason Bartlett, SS3000101 .353
Totals32878459 
Batting
2B - Nick Punto (7, Villanueva), Joe Mauer (22, Helling), Jason Kubel (5, Villanueva)
3B - Luis Castillo (2, Villanueva)
HR - Justin Morneau (20, Villanueva), Torii Hunter (13, Villanueva), Terry Tiffee (2, Villanueva)
RBI - Nick Punto (11), Joe Mauer 2 (39), Michael Cuddyer (45), Justin Morneau (65), Torii Hunter (47), Terry Tiffee 2 (6)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Michael Cuddyer 1
Minnesota Twins
Brad Radke (W,7-7) 7411040 5.11
Jesse Crain 1111100 5.30
Dennys Reyes 1000000 1.35
Pitches-Strikes - Brad Radke 102-73, Jesse Crain 25-14, Dennys Reyes 12-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brad Radke 8-9, Jesse Crain 3-0, Dennys Reyes 2-1
Batters Faced - Brad Radke 25, Jesse Crain 5, Dennys Reyes 3
Game Information
Attendance - 28412
Game Time - 2:45
Temperature - 70
Umpires - Home - Jerry Crawford, First Base - Brian O'Nora, Second Base - Phil Cuzzi, Third Base - Chuck Meriwether