<
>

Twins pour it on, pound Devil Rays

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- When Henry Blanco hits, it's a bonus. The
same could be said lately about the Minnesota Twins.

Blanco went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI, helping the
Twins forget their batting woes for a night with a 12-2 victory
over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Wednesday.

"I think this is what we need to get it going," Blanco said.

Luis Rivas hit a three-run homer, Justin Morneau had three hits
and an RBI, and Lew Ford homered and scored three runs for the
Twins, who got a season-best 17 hits and scored eight times in the
fourth inning against Devil Rays starter John Halama.

"I see where Minnesota said they are having problems scoring
runs," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. "They didn't have any
problems tonight. ... They hit some balls awfully hard."

Brad Radke (6-6) benefited from some rare run support, winning
for just the second time in 11 starts. He allowed two runs and six
hits in seven easy innings and struck out four.

"I'm not complaining, man," said Radke, who has nine
no-decisions. "I'll take those runs anytime."

Though leading the Chicago White Sox by a half-game in the AL
Central, Minnesota scored in double digits for just the second time
since beating Tampa Bay 16-4 on June 1.

The Twins batted .217 and scored 24 runs in their last nine
games, losing six of those and reaching 10 or more hits just once
in that span. After averaging more than six runs per game in the
season's first month, Minnesota's average is down to 4.18 since the
start of May.

It was 96 degrees and muggy outside, and with the Metrodome's
air conditioning off earlier in the day the first-pitch temperature
was a toasty 83 under the roof. Balls seemed to carry well in the
warmth.

"We might need to do that for a couple more nights," center
fielder Torii Hunter said.

Carl Crawford led off the game with a homer for the Devil Rays,
who have lost 11 of 16 since moving a season-high two games over
.500 on July 3. Though he extended his hitting streak to 12 games,
Crawford had a tough time in left field in the big fourth inning.

He fumbled around with Ford's leadoff blooper that went for a
hustling double. With one run in and the game tied at 2, Jacque
Jones hit a double to the warning track that Crawford could have
caught. Thirteen Twins wound up batting that inning.

"I found myself in a little sideways action instead of getting
up and down and through the ball," Halama said. "The ball stayed
up in the zone. That was the big key."

Halama (5-4) allowed more than three runs in only one of his six
previous starts, but this was by far his worst. He yielded nine
hits, nine runs and a walk in 3 2-3 innings while striking out
three.

"We were expecting better, obviously, and didn't get it,"
Piniella said.

Blanco, pressed into more playing time when rookie catcher Joe
Mauer went on the disabled list Monday with a sore knee, entered
the game batting .137 (16-for-117) since April 26.

He homered in the third and broke the game open in the fourth
with a two-run single after Halama intentionally walked Michael
Cuddyer to load the bases. Blanco even threw out Rocco Baldelli
trying to steal in the first inning, the 16th runner he has caught
this season in 34 attempts.

"I've been struggling pretty much all year long," said Blanco,
who had a productive pregame discussion with batting coach Scott
Ullger. "I told Scotty it's going to be different. I'm not going
to give up my at-bats that easily."

Blanco, a defensive standout and career .219 hitter, was signed
as a free agent to help mentor Mauer.

"You don't get consistent at-bats, and that makes it tough to
maintain," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "When he gets hot,
he'll get some pitches and he'll bang 'em. ... We just expect him
to control the game with the pitcher when he's catching. He does
that very well."

Game notes
Twins SS Cristian Guzman missed his second straight game
with back spasms. ... Crawford has five homers this year, two
leading off a game. ... Twins 3B Corey Koskie, 0-for-11 in his
career against Halama and mired in a season-long slump, was given
the night off. "He's having a hard time right now," Gardenhire
said. "He's driving himself crazy." ... Radke passed Frank Viola
for third place on Minnesota's career strikeouts list with 1,215.
Bert Blyleven is first with 2,035, followed by Jim Kaat with 1,824.
... The Twins are 34-0 when leading after seven innings. ... Seven
of Crawford's last 11 hits are for extra bases.