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Detroit at Minnesota

Scoreboard
Detroit (41-36)000100000172
Minnesota (43-35) «00012200x591

Twins build lead with small ball, Morneau's blast caps victory

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Three times in the past four years their division has been decided on the last day of the season, and the Minnesota Twins hope to avoid another dramatic, draining finish.

If they keep playing this well against the Detroit Tigers, maybe they can.

Justin Morneau homered and drove in two runs, Kevin Slowey went six innings and the Twins topped the Tigers 5-1 on Wednesday to improve to 19-10 against the AL Central this year.

"It would be nice to get that hot streak and be ahead," Morneau said, "instead of chasing and using up all we have just to get in."

The Twins have many improvements to make with their starting pitching and clutch hitting before they can think about the playoffs again.

The Chicago White Sox closed in while the Twins struggled through the past month, and the Tigers passed them for first place for the first time since early April after winning here on Monday.

The Twins pushed their lead back to 1½ games on this afternoon after a strong performance by Slowey (8-5), beating the Tigers for the sixth time in nine games this season.

"If we can just pitch, we'll be fine," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So it's all about kind of righting our own ship and not worrying about who you're playing."

Slowey, who is 20-7 at home since 2008, completed six innings for only the sixth time in 16 starts this season. He could've pitched more, but Magglio Ordonez's comebacker bounced off and bruised his right ankle before he threw him out on the final play of the sixth. Slowey wasn't allowed back in the game, but he said he should be fine.

The right-hander walked gingerly to the dugout after throwing 81 pitches and allowing only five baserunners, ending a three-start slide in which he gave up 18 runs over 12 1/3 innings.

With two outs in the fourth, an alarm was triggered at Target Field -- sending a siren sound over the public address system for a few seconds. A recorded voice blared, "Attention!"

"I started laughing, for sure," Slowey said.

Then Ordonez singled and Miguel Cabrera doubled for the game's first run. Later, the public address announcer told the crowd there was no reason to worry and that the alarm was being reset.

Between the RBI double and solo homer by Morneau, the Twins used some small ball to build their lead against Tigers rookie Andy Oliver (0-2) in his second major league start.

With reliever Joel Zumaya out for the season and a bunch of recently rough starts from the rotation, the Tigers have some pitching problems. After a fine debut last week in Atlanta, Oliver frequently found himself in trouble.

The left-hander struck out Jim Thome three times after the old slugger homered in each of the past two games, but everybody else hit at least one ball hard against him.

The soft ones made an impact, too.

Nick Punto hit an infield single that shortstop Danny Worth mishandled to start the fifth inning, and Drew Butera moved him over with a bunt -- landing safe at first when Oliver's throw was high. Denard Span laid down a sacrifice of his own, Orlando Hudson gave the Twins the lead with a sacrifice fly, and Delmon Young delivered an RBI single from the third spot in the order where he filled in for Joe Mauer.

Defense can be as much of a concern for Detroit as the pitching. Johnny Damon fumbled a ball in left field on Michael Cuddyer's single, allowing Jason Kubel to score after Morneau's home run in the sixth. The Tigers have 55 errors, second-most in the league and nearly twice as many as the Twins this season.

"We didn't execute today, and we got beat," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Before everyone was saying it was because of the Metrodome. Now what is it? Because it's Target Field? It has nothing to do with it. They're a good team."

Damon denied any hangover from Zumaya's devastating injury.

"We've got to get guys hot again," Damon said.

The Tigers have lost six of their past nine.

"I can't put a finger on it," third baseman Brandon Inge said. "We're just not getting it done. I know it's not lack of focus and lack of effort. I know that."

Notes

  • J.J. Hardy was to start his rehab assignment Wednesday with Class A Beloit, where he'll play three games at SS and be back with the Twins by Saturday if he and his left wrist pass the test.
  • Cabrera has 42 of his majors-most 68 RBI on the road.
  • Mauer had the day off, so Young moved up five spots in the lineup. "He was really pumped," Gardenhire said.
 
Copyright 2014 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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Justin Morneau and manager Ron Gardenhire soak in the win over division rival Detroit. (AP)
Justin Morneau and manager Ron Gardenhire soak in the win over division rival Detroit. (AP)

Players of the Game
Minnesota

J. Morneau
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
Minnesota

K. Slowey
IP 6.0
H 4
ER 1
BB 1
K 4
 
Detroit Tigers
Austin Jackson, CF4010012 .308
Johnny Damon, LF4000013 .268
Magglio Ordonez, DH4110001 .314
Miguel Cabrera, 1B4011000 .337
Brennan Boesch, RF4010012 .332
Carlos Guillen, 2B4010011 .286
Brandon Inge, 3B3000112 .252
Gerald Laird, C3010001 .195
Danny Worth, SS2000011 .263
   a- Ramon Santiago, PH-SS1010000 .272
Totals3317116  
a-singled for Worth in the 8th
Batting
2B - Miguel Cabrera (23, Slowey), Gerald Laird (6, Guerrier)
RBI - Miguel Cabrera (68)
2-OUT RBI - Miguel Cabrera (25)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Austin Jackson 1
DP - Guillen-Cabrera, Laird-Worth
PB - Gerald Laird (2)
E - Johnny Damon (2, Misplayed grounder), Andrew Oliver (1, Throwing)
Detroit Tigers
Andrew Oliver (L,0-2) 6852261 3.00
Casey Fien 2100000 0.00
IBB - Cuddyer by Andrew Oliver
WP - Andrew Oliver (2)
Pitches-Strikes - Andrew Oliver 96-59, Casey Fien 29-18
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Andrew Oliver 5-5, Casey Fien 4-2
Batters Faced - Andrew Oliver 26, Casey Fien 7
Minnesota Twins
Denard Span, CF2000100 .282
Orlando Hudson, 2B3111001 .287
Delmon Young, LF4011011 .292
Justin Morneau, 1B4122010 .349
Jason Kubel, RF4120001 .266
    Matt Tolbert, PR-3B0000000 .217
Michael Cuddyer, 3B-RF3020101 .263
Jim Thome, DH3000033 .248
Nick Punto, SS3110010 .258
Drew Butera, C2100000 .178
Totals2859426  
Batting
2B - Justin Morneau (23, Oliver), Jason Kubel (13, Oliver), Michael Cuddyer (16, Oliver)
HR - Justin Morneau (16, Oliver)
SF - Orlando Hudson (1)
SH - Denard Span (4), Drew Butera (2)
RBI - Orlando Hudson (19), Delmon Young (51), Justin Morneau 2 (52)
2-OUT RBI - Delmon Young (24)
CS - Michael Cuddyer (1, 2nd base by Oliver/Laird)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
DP - Cuddyer-Hudson-Morneau, Morneau-Punto
E - Matt Tolbert (2, Misplayed grounder)
Minnesota Twins
Kevin Slowey (W,8-5) 6411140 4.57
Brian Duensing 1000000 1.83
Matt Guerrier 0.2200010 1.72
Jose Mijares (H,6) 0.1000000 2.25
Jon Rauch 1100010 2.40
Pitches-Strikes - Kevin Slowey 81-55, Brian Duensing 10-9, Matt Guerrier 14-10, Jose Mijares 6-4, Jon Rauch 24-16
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kevin Slowey 5-7, Brian Duensing 2-1, Jon Rauch 2-1
Batters Faced - Kevin Slowey 21, Brian Duensing 3, Matt Guerrier 4, Jose Mijares 1, Jon Rauch 5
Game Information
Attendance - 40671
Game Time - 2:32
Temperature - 71
Umpires - Home - Bill Welke, First Base - Jim Reynolds, Second Base - Tim Welke, Third Base - Scott Barry