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Loaiza fails to get eighth win despite quality start

5/18/2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- In just three weeks, the Minnesota Twins have
made quite a move.

The Twins took sole possession of the AL Central lead for the
first time this season, pushing across two runs in the eighth
inning Sunday to beat the Chicago White Sox 3-2.

Minnesota rallied on Tom Gordon's wild pitch and shortstop Jose
Valentin's throwing error.

The Twins now have a one-half game lead over Kansas City.
Minnesota was eight games behind the Royals on April 28.

"We're the hunted now,'' center fielder Torii Hunter said.

The Twins won the division last season.

"It's always a good feeling to be in first place,'' catcher
A.J. Pierzynski said. "But we're only a quarter of the way done.
We hope when 162 games are done we're in first place, too.''

Hunter, who had stranded seven runners on base in his first
three trips, singled with one out and the Twins trailing 2-1 in the
eighth.

Dustan Mohr singled Hunter to third, and Gordon's first pitch to
pinch-hitter Bobby Kielty skipped past catcher Miguel Olivo,
allowing the tying run to score.

After Kielty was intentionally walked and when Pierzynski was
announced as a pinch-hitter, Kelly Wunsch relieved. Pierzynski
followed with a grounder to Paul Konerko, who forced pinch-runner
Luis Rivas at second. But Valentin's return throw got past Wunsch
covering first, scoring Mohr.

"I thought I could get him and end the inning,'' Valentin said.
"Unfortunately, I made a bad throw. There's nothing you can do
about it.''

It was the second consecutive game that the White Sox defense
let them down. On Saturday, the Twins got two unearned runs in a
3-1 victory.

"It may appear that the defense is costing us games, but the
key for us is scoring runs,'' White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said.
"When we don't score runs, other things get magnified.''

LaTroy Hawkins (3-0) pitched 1 2-3 innings for the win. Eddie
Guardado pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 10 opportunities.

Gordon (2-3) took the loss for Chicago, which lost its eighth in
a row in the Metrodome.

Valentin's two-run homer had given the White Sox a 2-0 lead, and
Esteban Loaiza made it hold up, with a little help from the Twins'
inability to get a timely hit.

Loaiza retired the side in order only once in his six-plus
innings, but the Twins were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring
position and left nine runners on base. Todd Sears' RBI single in
the fifth produced Minnesota's first run.

Minnesota also overcame first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz
spraining his left ankle in the second inning.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said the Twins would make a decision
Monday on whether to put Mientkiewicz on the disabled list.

"I have a hard time believing that he's going to be ready in 10
days,'' Gardenhire said. "If he's got a sprained ankle, that's a
7-to-10-day thing. Doug does not want to go on the DL.''

Mientkiewicz broke for home plate when Loaiza's pitch bounced
away from Olivo. But Olivo recovered quickly and Mientkiewicz tried
to retreat, but was tagged out as he stepped on third baseman Joe
Crede's foot.

Hunter hit two balls hard in the first five innings, but had
nothing to show for it. Valentin gathered his hard grounder with
the bases loaded and two out in the third, turning it into an
inning-ending force play.

With two on and two out in the fifth, he hit Loaiza's first
pitch on a line to right, but Carlos Lee reached up to make the
play.

"The softest ball I hit was the one I got a hit on,'' Hunter
said.

Valentin connected off Kyle Lohse in the third inning for his
ninth homer, a drive that hit the facing of the upper deck in right
field.

Lohse gave up six hits in 6 1/3 innings, with four walks and
four strikeouts. He left with runners on first and third, and
Hawkins induced a double-play grounder from Frank Thomas to keep
Minnesota within a run.

Game notes
Lohse is 1-0 with a 1.57 ERA in four May starts. ... The
Twins have raised their average from .247 at the end of April to
.277 through Sunday. ... Loaiza lowered his ERA to an AL-best 1.99.
... Gardenhire rested several of his regulars, starting Sears at
DH, Chris Gomez at second base, Tom Prince at catcher and Denny
Hocking in right field. Hocking moved to first base after
Mientkiewicz was injured.