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Mauer, Nevin help Twins shave magic number to two

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins headed home, eager to
clinch a spot in the playoffs so they can enjoy themselves a bit
before again experiencing the pressure associated with postseason
baseball.

Joe Mauer and Phil Nevin hit two-run homers, and the Twins moved
closer to sealing a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles
6-3 Sunday.

Any combination of Minnesota wins or losses by the Chicago White
Sox totaling two will ensure the Twins a trip to the postseason.

"We still haven't got ourselves into the playoffs yet, but
we're pretty close. Guys are getting excited," manager Ron
Gardenhire said. "The ballgames all feel like playoff games right
now. That's not a bad thing, because it prepares you if you get
into the postseason."

Then again, Gardenhire wouldn't mind a chance to relax for a
bit. The Twins just completed an exhausting 10-game trip, but they
can't let up until their quest to reach the playoffs is completed.

"We'd like to try and get that thing done and at least clinch a
wild card so a couple of guys here could at least get a breath,"
Gardenhire said. "You've got to keep plugging and you got to keep
playing. Going home now is huge."

Minnesota has a chance to get in as the AL Central champs. The
Twins are 1½ games behind first-place Detroit, which clinched no
worse than the wild-card berth Sunday with an 11-4 win at Kansas
City.

Mauer and Luis Castillo had three hits for the Twins, and Nevin
finished with three RBI. Nevin's homer, which made it 6-3 in the
eighth, was his first since coming to the Twins from the Chicago
Cubs on Aug. 31.

"I can honestly say this is the most fun I've had playing
baseball at this level anywhere," said Nevin, who has never been
to the playoffs. "I can't wait to have somebody dump champagne
over my head and something like that."

What better place for that to happen than at home? The Twins
went 42-39 on the road, but at home they're an AL-best 50-24.

"We've obviously played good at home. We like being there,"
Nevin said. "I know coming in as a visiting player it's a tough
place to play, and you would think the crowd is going to be into it
pretty good this last week."

Miguel Tejada hit two solo homers for the Orioles, upping his
total to a team-high 24. The first home run was his first since
Aug. 20, and it ended a career-high run of 120 at-bats without a
homer.

"I don't really look for home runs, but today I got two," he
said. "I always say I'm not a home run hitter. The most important
thing for me is to be on the field every day and be consistent at
the plate."

Corey Patterson also homered for Baltimore, which dropped two of
three to the Twins and closed its home schedule at 40-41.

"We were kind of hoping we could have given the fans a little
bit better to look at, but we'll just have to do it on the road,"
manager Sam Perlozzo said.

Twins starter Matt Garza (3-5) allowed three runs and six hits
in 5 2/3 innings. He yielded three homers -- matching the total he
surrendered over 41 2-3 innings before Sunday.

Joe Nathan, the seventh Minnesota pitcher, worked the ninth for
his 35th save.

"That's the first time we've had a 35-save guy three years in a
row with the Minnesota Twins organization. That's pretty
impressive," Gardenhire said. "That tells you a little about the
guy at the end of the ball game for us."

Baltimore rookie Adam Loewen (6-6) gave up four runs, three
earned, in six innings. The left-hander had eight strikeouts,
matching his career high.

Mauer staked the Twins to a 2-0 lead in the first when he
homered after Castillo opened the game with a double. An RBI single
by Torii Hunter and Nevin's sacrifice fly made it 4-0 in the third.

Tejada homered in the fourth and again leading off the sixth.
After Patterson homered with two outs in the sixth to bring
Baltimore to 4-3, Garza was lifted after walking Jeff Fiorentino.

Game notes
The game was delayed by rain for 29 minutes after the sixth
inning. ... The Orioles drew 2,153,139 fans this season, the lowest
total in the 15-year history of Camden Yards. ... Minnesota won the
season series 6-3. ... The Twins outhit Baltimore 13-9 and improved
to 77-3 when outhitting the opposition. ... Baltimore's Chris Gomez
extended his career-high hitting streak to 16 games.