<
>

Twins swipe series from Tigers on Morneau's blast

DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Morneau chose the right time to reach a
milestone.

Morneau hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning --
becoming the first Minnesota player with 30 homers in almost two
decades -- to lift the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers on
Wednesday night.

"That was a nice moment for our baseball team," Minnesota
manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had a little ceremony where we
gave him the ball after the game. He couldn't have picked a better
time to do it, either."

Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek were the last Twins to
hit 30 homers -- all in 1987 -- and Morneau became the first
Minnesota player with 30 home runs and 100 RBI since Gaetti.

"I guess they traded the guy a bat and a team-signed ball for
it," Morneau said about the souvenir ball, retrieved from the
right-field seats. "My dad will end up with the ball, but it was
nice."

Johan Santana won his fourth straight decision and Luis Castillo
matched a career high with four hits and had a season-high three
stolen bases for Minnesota, which has lost only one of its last
seven games. The Twins took a slim lead in the AL wild-card race.

The Tigers, who have the best record in baseball, lost a series
for the first time since July 3-5 at Oakland.

"We put ourselves in a position to make a run at something, but
we've done nothing yet," manager Jim Leyland said. "If we take
the attitude that we're home free, we won't get home. The beauty of
the pennant race is to be the best, you have to beat the best."

Following a day off on Thursday, the Tigers go on the road to
play the Chicago White Sox and Boston.

Santana (13-5) allowed three runs, four hits and two walks while
striking out 10, raising his major league-high total to 178. He
gave up his first hit in the fourth, allowed a run in the sixth and
fell behind when Brandon Inge's two-run homer gave the Tigers a 3-2
lead in the seventh.

But the Twins quickly went back in front on Morneau's home run.

"That was great to see. Not just for tonight's game, but he's a
part of Twins history now," Santana said. "We knew we had a
chance to win the series and also catch up some, so this was big."

Joel Zumaya (6-2) inherited a runner when Jamie Walker allowed a
walk -- just his second unintentional pass this season -- to start
the eighth. Zumaya struck out Michael Cuddyer on consecutive
pitches that went 81 and 101 mph, then Morneau turned on a fastball
and hit it just inside the right-field foul pole.

"Of course, I'm upset," Zumaya said. "Inge turned the game
around for us off Santana, so you want to go in there and keep the
lead. But I've learned, you have to erase this because we have
three games against the world champs and they're going to need me.
I can't have this in my head."

Juan Rincon and Dennys Reyes combined for a hitless eighth, and
Joe Nathan finished with a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 26
chances.

Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman gave up two runs, eight hits
and two walks while striking out five in seven innings.

"I'm not disappointed that I didn't win. I'm disappointed we
didn't win," Bonderman said. "It would've been big to get two of
three."

Minnesota went ahead 1-0 in the first when Castillo led off with
a single and Nick Punto followed with an RBI double.

Santana struck out Tigers consistently with an array of
fastballs, changeups and breaking balls before they finally got to
him in the sixth.

Rookie Brent Clevlen, who doubled against Santana in his first
career at-bat on July 30, tripled and scored on Placido Polanco's
single. Castillo's fourth single put the Twins ahead 2-1 in the
seventh.

Game notes
Minnesota will place LHP Francisco Liriano on the 15-day DL
on Thursday, when he is scheduled to have an extensive MRI exam on
his elbow and forearm. RHP Boof Bonser was recalled from Triple-A
Rochester to take Liriano's roster spot and place in the rotation
Saturday. ... Detroit LHP Mike Maroth, who had elbow surgery June
2, gave up two homers and three runs in three-plus innings in his
first rehab start at Triple-A Toledo. ... Twins RHP Matt Garza, a
top prospect, is to make his major league debut Friday at home
against Toronto. ... Six people were arrested Wednesday at Tiger
Stadium, the historic ballpark the team left in 1999, accused of
breaking in and vandalizing it.