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Morneau paying off at cleanup

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins' search for a cleanup hitter apparently is over. Rookie Justin Morneau appears to have won the job -- by a long shot.

Morneau had three hits, including a three-run homer, and the Twins roughed up rookie Daniel Cabrera in an 8-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Morneau has five homers, 13 RBI and a lofty .567 slugging percentage in 17 games with the Twins. He has spent much of the season with Triple-A Rochester, but now it appears that he'll be
hanging around with the Twins for quite a while.

"We have a natural cleanup-type guy there for now and hopefully
for a long time in the future," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire
said. "He just looks like the kind of kid that belongs in that
spot that can do some damage. We haven't had one of those here in a
while."

Corey Koskie has batted cleanup for most of the season (55
games), but his batting average is at .238 and he hit in the No. 7
spot on Sunday. Neither Koskie or Matt LeCroy possess as potent a
bat as Morneau, whose homer off Cabrera was only the 35th in the
13-year history of Camden Yards to land on Eutaw Street, well
beyond the 25-foot scoreboard in right.

"We've had a lot of guys at the clean up spots but we haven't
had a big cleanup hitter," Gardenhire said. "That's why we've
been developing this kid. We think he's got a chance to be that
guy. You saw a little bit of that today."

Mike Cuddyer also homered and had three hits for the Twins, who
won two of three from the Orioles to capture a third straight
series for the first time since May 19.

Cabrera (8-4) was 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA in eight starts since June
15, but he fell behind 6-0 in the second inning and didn't make it
out of the sixth. He gave up eight runs and 11 hits, both season
highs, in five-plus innings.

"He just didn't seem to have it," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli
said. "Everything seemed to be in the middle of the plate. You do
that in the big leagues, you're going to get hit. He tried to get
it in, and it just didn't happen."

Miguel Tejada had two hits and scored twice for the Orioles, who
missed an opportunity to move past Tampa Bay into third place in
the AL East. Baltimore, which went 6-3 on the road before facing
the Twins, hasn't won a home series since taking two of three from
Cleveland in early May.

"We've been struggling at home," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro
said. "I thought we were playing pretty good coming off the road
trip, but we couldn't keep it going."

Minnesota began the onslaught against Cabrera on his first
pitch, when Shannon Stewart singled for the first of his three
hits. After Nick Punto singled, Lew Ford hit a sacrifice fly and
Torii Hunter singled in a run.

In the second, after Ford singled in a run, Morneau drove a 2-2
pitch an estimated 395 feet, scattering the fans beyond the
right-field wall.

"I'm just trying to fit in, not putting too much pressure on
myself," Morneau said. "At the same time, I know that I'm in the
four-spot and need to drive the ball and drive in some runs."

Successive doubles by Tejada and Palmeiro and a single by Javy
Lopez brought the Orioles to 6-2 in the bottom half, and Karim
Garcia hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth to make it 6-3.

Koskie singled in a run in the Minnesota fifth and Melvin Mora
hit an RBI double in the Orioles' half. Cuddyer chased Cabrera by
leading off the sixth with his seventh homer, a shot to center that
made it 8-4.

Twins starter Kyle Lohse (4-7) allowed four runs and seven hits
in five innings. Although he won a game for the first time this
against a team other than Kansas City, he wasn't smiling afterward.

Asked if he was frustrated about being pulled, he sarcastically
replied, "No, I like to go five innings and 69 pitches."

Game notes
Minnesota is 30-10 when getting 10 or more hits. ...
Baltimore's David Newhan went 0-for-4, the first time he's gone
hitless in successive games since joining the Orioles on June 18.
His batting average dipped to .391, the first time it's been under
.400 this season. ... Palmeiro's second-inning single thrust him
past Harold Baines into sole possession of 37th place on the career
list. He has 2,868 hits.