<
>

Boof! Twins pull another win over Tigers out of hat

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- This is Boof Bonser's third stint in the
majors this season. His recent pitching performances suggest he
won't be getting sent back down again.

Bonser brought Minnesota a little bit closer in the tightening
three-team race in the AL Central, striking out five and allowing
only five hits in seven strong innings in the Twins' 2-1 win over
the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night.

Minnesota moved within three games of the division-leading
Tigers with the victory.

"He's been getting better. Just to see what he did tonight, I'm
pretty confident when he gets on the mound now," said Torii
Hunter, who had Minnesota's only RBI on a second-inning single
against Tigers starter Nate Robertson (12-12).

But Bonser (5-5), the stone-faced, right-handed rookie with the
peculiar first name, was good enough to give the Twins their second
straight victory over Detroit. Afterward, he was all smiles,
acknowledging his best big league outing to date.

"That felt great, man," said Bonser, who walked two. "One run
against that team? I'll take it."

The Chicago White Sox, who beat the Cleveland Indians 10-8,
stayed a half-game behind Minnesota, which will throw All-Star ace
Johan Santana on Sunday with a prime chance to win three out of
four in the series. Santana hasn't lost in the second half and
hasn't been beaten at the Metrodome in his last 21 starts.

"Anything's possible," said Detroit's Curtis Granderson, who
struck out three times. "We can still come out here and get a
split."

Pat Neshek struck out two in a perfect eighth, and Joe Nathan
handled the ninth for his 30th save. Between Bonser, Neshek and
Nathan, the Twins retired the last 17 Tigers batters.

Bonser had to work out of plenty of sticky spots early, with two
runners on in the first and the bases loaded in the third. He
didn't let anyone score, though, until the fourth when Sean Casey
drew a leadoff walk, took third on Brandon Inge's double and scored
on a groundout to first off the end of Omar Infante's bat, cutting
the Minnesota lead to 2-1.

He hasn't been dominant by any means, but Bonser, one of three
rookies currently in the rotation, has done an impressive job since
being called up a month ago for the third time this season. In his
last five starts, Bonser is 3-1 with 10 runs allowed in 30 2/3
innings.

Manager Ron Gardenhire was most pleased by the way he changed
speeds and pitched ahead in the count, especially in the later
innings when he was needed to give a tired bullpen some rest.

"I think he sees what makes you successful in this league,"
Gardenhire said, "and that's attacking and making your pitches."

The Twins were excited, too, by news of left-hander Francisco
Liriano's successful rehab start for Triple-A Rochester in the
International League playoffs. He threw three hitless innings and
will rejoin Minnesota's rotation next week, probably Wednesday.

Robertson pitched seven innings, allowing six hits, two runs,
one earned, and one walk while striking out five. He impressed
manager Jim Leyland by pitching through pain after Mike Redmond hit
him with a line drive in the midsection at the end of the third.

"It was tremendous," Leyland said. "I don't think I've seen
anything like that. It's just unbelievable. One of the best
pitching performances I've seen."

Robertson's only blemish was in the second, when Michael Cuddyer
started with a single and -- as he ran by Infante on a chop hit by
Justin Morneau -- distracted the second baseman enough to cause a
misplay.

The ball rolled into right field and Cuddyer came all the way
around to score. Morneau took third on Magglio Ordonez's high throw
home and scored when Hunter smacked a 2-2 pitch into left field.

"I'm not going to make this a big, dramatic story," Robertson
said. "I pitched through it. Wish we could have won the ballgame.
We didn't."

Game notes
With Minnesota's 82nd win, Gardenhire is guaranteed his
fifth straight season above .500. The last manager to start a
career with five straight winning seasons was Toronto's Cito
Gaston, from 1989-1993. ... Robertson has received only 24 runs of
support in his 12 losses. ... Bonser, for the record, legally
changed his given name, John, to his childhood nickname, Boof, in
2001.