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Bullpen folds as Twins continue fade

7/7/2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota got a much-needed quality outing
from its struggling starting pitcher, then watched its two best
relievers blow a late lead.

That's the way things are going for the fading Twins.

Shane Spencer hit a two-run homer with two outs in the 10th
inning to send the Cleveland Indians to a 5-3 comeback victory
Sunday.

"Our bullpen came up and didn't hold it," Minnesota manager
Ron Gardenhire said. "That normally doesn't happen, but it did
today."

Matt Lawton, who hit a game-tying homer off LaTroy Hawkins in
the eighth and went 3-for-5 against his old club, singled with one
out in the 10th against Eddie Guardado (1-4).

Spencer drove an 0-2 pitch into the left-field seats to give
Cleveland three wins in four games in this series and hand
Minnesota its 16th defeat in its last 22.

"He's an aggressive pitcher," Spencer said. "He just missed
his spot."

David Riske (2-1) pitched two innings of scoreless relief, and
Danys Baez got his 20th save in 25 opportunities.

Doug Mientkiewicz had a pair of doubles and an RBI for the
Twins, who appeared to be on the way to getting Brad Radke his
first victory in nine starts with a 3-1 lead after six.

Casey Blake, 5-for-5 with seven RBI on Saturday, doubled and
scored on a single by Victor Martinez in the seventh to make it
3-2.

Radke gave up two runs, five hits and a walk in seven innings.
But Hawkins, 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA this year, and Guardado, 20-for-22
in save chances, couldn't hang on.

"When we get the ball in Hawk's hands, we don't think too many
things are going to happen," Gardenhire said.

The Twins have lost seven of eight. They're just one game above
.500 and one ahead of the White Sox for second place in the AL
Central.

"Hopefully, we do put our finger on it soon," Guardado said,
"because it's getting late."

Radke looked like his old self -- the Twins' starter in seven of
the last eight season openers. He got a break -- a rarity for this
team recently -- after a bad bounce in the first, usually his worst
inning.

Milton Bradley's two-out bloop triple landed in front of Torii
Hunter in center field, ricocheted over his head and rolled all the
way to the wall. Right fielder Bobby Kielty picked it up and threw
to shortstop Cristian Guzman, whose relay home beat Bradley by
about 20 feet.

Bradley didn't slide, avoiding catcher A.J. Pierzynski's sweep
tag but running past the plate and continuing toward the dugout as
Pierzynski jogged after him to make the tag.

Radke allowed soft singles to Lawton and Bradley to begin the
fourth before a sacrifice fly by Spencer cut the Twins' lead to
2-1.

"Shane's swing has been coming around," Indians manager Eric
Wedge said. "It's tough for a guy who's not in every day, but he's
worked hard and done what he's needed to go out there and do the
job when he gets the chance."

Cleveland starter Jason Stanford gave up two runs, five hits and
four walks in his five-inning major league debut.

An undrafted free agent signed by the Indians in 1999 after
completing his college career at Charlotte, Stanford went 8-3 with
a 3.13 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo. He replaced the demoted Ricardo
Rodriguez in the rotation.

"I felt comfortable out there," Stanford said. "I was
surprised. You're going to have butterflies and nervousness, but I
had most of that yesterday."

Though a little wild, Stanford twice worked his way out of
trouble to keep Cleveland within one.

Luis Rivas walked to load the bases with two outs in the fourth,
but shortstop Ricky Gutierrez bobbled Kielty's grounder and barely
threw him out to end the inning.

With runners at first and third and two down in the fifth,
Dustan Mohr broke his bat and grounded out.

Hunter walked, stole second and scored on Mohr's single in the
second, and Kielty and Mientkiewicz put the Twins up 2-0 in the
third with back-to-back doubles.

"Hopefully, we can keep playing well up to the All-Star
break," Lawton said.

Game notes
Rivas hit an RBI single in the sixth off Jack Cressend to
put Minnesota up 3-1. ... Blake, Cressend and Lawton are all former
Twins. ... Lawton is batting .325 with seven homers, 17 runs and 15
RBI in his last 18 games. ... Twins LHP Eric Milton, recovering
from knee surgery he had in March, is still at least a month away
from throwing off a mound.