Mays pitches well in final start before playoffs


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins are finally healthy, and
now they look ready for the playoffs.

Corey Koskie's two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the
eighth inning lifted the Twins to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago
White Sox on Friday night.

Michael Ryan singled for his first major league hit with one out
in the eighth. Koskie connected on the first pitch from Kelly
Wunsch, who replaced Gary Glover (7-8).

"This is getting exciting,'' Koskie said of preparing for his
team's first postseason appearance since 1991. "It felt like a
playoff game out there tonight.''

More importantly, left fielder Jacque Jones returned to the
starting lineup, meaning the Twins are back at full strength after
a string of minor injuries in the past two weeks. And they got an
impressive outing from Joe Mays, who will pitch Game 2 of the AL division series in Oakland.

Mays pitched six strong innings and retired 15 of his final 16

After giving up Magglio Ordonez's RBI single in the first
inning, Mays faced runners at the corners with no outs in the

But Mays got two popups and a grounder to get out of the inning.
He went on to retire his next nine hitters as well.

After Frank Thomas led off the sixth with a single, Mays retired
the next three hitters. He departed after the sixth, giving up five
hits and a walk with four strikeouts.

"Joe Mays got his work in right where we wanted him to be,''
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The right-hander had been inconsistent since his return from the
disabled list in July. Mays gave up seven runs in just four innings
in his last start Sunday in Chicago.

"Last time out against them I didn't have a curveball,'' Mays
said. "So they just gave up on that pitch. Tonight I was throwing
my curve and my slider for strikes. It made a big difference.''

Tony Fiore (10-3) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory,
and Eddie Guardado worked the ninth for his 44th save in 50

The Twins narrowly dodged another injury in the sixth inning
when first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz and Joe Crede collided, but
both stayed in the game.

Crede hit a dribbler down the first-base line, and Mientkiewicz
ran toward home plate to field the ball. The ball and both players
arrived at the same time and both were knocked backward by the
force of the collision.

The ball was ruled foul and, after a couple of minutes, both
players got up and the at-bat resumed.

Mientkiewicz left after the sixth inning, as did several of the
other Twins starters.

Chicago starter Jon Rauch allowed just one baserunner in the
first five innings, on Luis Rivas' third-inning single. But the
Twins got to him in the sixth when Rivas singled, went to third on
Jacque Jones' single and scored as Cristian Guzman beat out a bunt
on a safety squeeze play.

Rauch pitched seven innings, giving up five hits and striking
out four in his sixth major league start.

"I think I proved today I can get big league hitters out,'' he

Game notes
Koskie's homer was the Twins' 165th of the year, their best
total since 1992. ... Plate umpire Charlie Relaford was momentarily
dazed when David Ortiz's bat struck him on the back of the head
during a backswing. Twins trainer Jim Kahmann came out to check on
Relaford, but the umpire stayed in the game. ... Jones, who
sprained his ankle on Sept. 17 in Detroit, hit leadoff and went
1-for-3 in six innings. ... With his first-inning single, Ordonez
has a career-high 133 RBI. ... White Sox left fielder Carlos Lee
will miss the series to be with his wife, who is expecting a baby.
... The Twins are 23-3 in series openers at home. ... The Twins are
assured of finishing .500 or better in each month of the season for
the first time since 1969.