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Twins stumble, open door for Tigers in AL Central

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With three losses in their last four games,
the Minnesota Twins are facing the probability of a familiar
scenario: starting the postseason at Yankee Stadium.

The Twins missed another chance to move ahead in the division
race Saturday when Jon Garland took a shutout into the ninth inning
and led the Chicago White Sox to a 6-3 win.

That left Detroit needing one win in its last two games, or a
loss Sunday by Minnesota, to clinch the AL Central. The Tigers, who
lost to the Kansas City Royals 9-6 later Saturday, won the season series
with the Twins 11-8 and will win the division if the teams tie.

"We had it in our hands, and it just got away," said rookie
starter Matt Garza (3-6), who was roughed up in a four-run third
when Chicago batted around.

Michael Cuddyer's three-run homer in the ninth was the end for
Garland, but a sellout crowd of 46,219, the biggest since the home
opener, left disappointed. The attendance total gave Major League
Baseball a single-season record for the third straight year.

The loss pushed the Twins closer to entering the playoffs as the
wild card, which means a first-round matchup with New York -- just
like in 2003 and 2004. The Yankees won both of those series.

"Doesn't matter if it's five games, seven games. You've still
got to beat them," Cuddyer said. "That's what it boils down to.
Can't pick and choose, so there's no reason to even really worry
about that."

Tadahito Iguchi had a homer among his three hits and three RBI,
Ross Gload tripled, doubled and singled and Rob Mackowiak had two
hits and drove in a run. Every starter except Brian Anderson got a
hit.

"It means more to me to go out there and give my team a
chance," said Garland (18-7), who kept the ball down and kept
Minnesota's batters off-balance -- rebounding from a pair of poor
outings.

Garland was terrible over the first 2½ months of the season, but
he bounced back from that, too, and posted a 3.61 ERA in the second
half. He gave up six hits and two earned runs without a walk while
striking out four in 8 1/3 innings.

"Get healthy, get strong, come back next year and see what
happens," Garland said.

The 11:10 a.m. local start time was assigned to give Metrodome
workers time to configure the field and lower-level seats for a
college football game between Minnesota sixth-ranked Michigan at 7
p.m.

Garland made sure there was no conflict, mowing through the
Twins' lineup and allowing only two runners past first base. Jason
Tyner started the sixth inning with a single, moved up on bunts by
Jason Bartlett and Nick Punto but was stuck there when Luis
Rodriguez struck out.

The defending World Series champions are only 33-40 after the
All-Star break, which led to their elimination earlier this week.
With a second straight victory here, the White Sox did ruin another
important game for one of their rivals -- and improve their record
to 90-71. This marked the first time they've won 90 or more games
in consecutive seasons since 1963-65.

"Ninety wins is better than 89. It looks better," manager
Ozzie Guillen said. "I don't get paid to win 90 games. I get paid
to win the pennant."

Due to the early start a day after a night game, Guillen sat six
regulars -- Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski,
Jim Thome and Juan Uribe -- who have a staggering 188 homers between
them.

For the same reason, Minnesota's Joe Mauer was given a rest,
which also preserved his league-leading average at .346. New York's
Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter were four and five points behind him
when the day began, the only challengers between Mauer and the
first batting title won by a catcher in AL history.

The White Sox subs didn't let up on Garza, who is being
considered for the fourth spot in the postseason rotation with
Carlos Silva.

After stranding runners at second and third in each of the first
two innings, Garza got hammered in the third. Gload doubled, Josh
Fields walked, Mackowiak doubled in a run, Iguchi singled in two
and Alex Cintron singled before Ryan Sweeney's RBI groundout.

Garza lasted only 2 2/3 innings, surrendering eight hits, four
runs and two walks. He struck out three. Matt Guerrier gave up an
RBI single to Sweeney in the fifth and a towering solo shot to
Iguchi in the seventh, rendering Cuddyer's homer too little, too
late.

Game notes
Rodriguez again played second base for Luis Castillo, who
has missed the last four games with a sore knee. ... Home plate
umpire and crew chief Jerry Crawford left the game briefly because
of a back problem, but he came back and called third base. ... The
White Sox lead the majors in batting with runners in scoring
position, at .309.