Minnesota Twins 

Liriano solid as Twins beat Angels

Francisco Liriano gave up just one hit in six stellar innings, as the Minnesota Twins avoided a sweep with a 7-1 win over the LA Angels of Anaheim in the final installment of a three-game series at Angel Stadium.

The 22-year-old Liriano (4-0) struck out four and walked four and was not threatened until his final inning of work. It was his third straight victory since being inserted into the starting rotation on May 19. The lone blemish came on an infield hit in the sixth by Orlando Cabrera, who was ruled to have beaten third baseman Tony Batista's throw even though replays seemed to indicate otherwise. "I was able to hit my spots," Liriano said. "My fastball was moving a little too much and I walked a few, but I had good defense behind me." Joe Mauer finished 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored for Minnesota, which entered this series fresh off a sweep of Seattle. Torii Hunter and Batista also knocked in a pair of runs in the win. Ervin Santana (4-3) suffered the loss after allowing four runs -- three earned -- on nine hits over seven innings. Juan Rivera scored the lone run for the Angels, who have still won six of their last eight contests. The Twins put up three runs during their first at-bat to take immediate control. After Lew Ford and Luis Castillo opened the game with back-to-back singles, Mauer roped a double to center that plated both base runners. Mauer advanced to third on a missed catch error by catcher Jose Molina on the play, then scored on Hunter's sacrifice fly. Minnesota took advantage of another Angel miscue to extend the lead to 4-0 in the third. Ford reached on a fielding error by third baseman Robb Quinlan to start the frame, and was forced out at second on a Castillo ground ball. Castillo, though, moved to second on Mauer's single and then came in on a base hit by Hunter. Anaheim threatened in the sixth, but Liriano wiggled out of trouble. Molina led off with a walk, then after Chone Figgins struck out, Cabrera hit his questionable infield single. Liriano then unleashed a wild pitch that allowed the runners to advance, but rebounded to fan Garret Anderson before Vladimir Guerrero flied out to left. "This young guy pitched his butt off, everything was working," Hunter said. "When you get Guerrero off-balance, you're doing pretty good." The Angels finally got on the board in the seventh, as Rivera hit a two-out double and scored on a throwing error by shortstop Nick Punto to make it 4-1. They tried to mount a rally in the eighth, but two outstanding catches in the outfield squashed the charge. With Figgins on first, Cabrera hit a shot to shallow center that Hunter ran in and snagged before it hit the ground. Anderson followed with a deep fly ball to right that seemed like a sure-fire double, but Ford leapt up and made a spectacular play against the wall before doubling-up Figgins, who expected the ball to drop and was already heading toward third. Batista then hit a two-run double in the ninth and came in on Punto's single to cap the scoring. Game Notes Cabrera has now reached base safely in a career-high 32 straight games for the longest active streak in the majors...The Angels had won the previous three contests against the Twins...Mauer has a 10-game hitting streak.

Twins-Tigers Preview

The Detroit Tigers are in unfamiliar territory - tied for first-place in the AL Central Division.

They'll try to move in sole possession of the division lead when they continue their three-game series with the Minnesota Twins Wednesday at Comerica Park.

The Tigers (25-13) used a five-run third inning to beat Minnesota 7-4 in the series-opener Tuesday and improve to 4-0 against the Twins (17-22) at home this season, outscoring them 40-5 in that span.

Detroit's fifth straight win, coupled with the Chicago White Sox' 10-7 loss to Tampa Bay, moved the Tigers into a tie atop the AL Central.

Chicago and Tampa Bay continue their series on Wednesday.

The Tigers have not been in first place this late in the season since 1993, which was also the last year they had a winning record.

''A lot of us were on that team that lost 119 games in 2003, and we fought hard to keep it to that many,'' said third baseman Brandon Inge, who was 1-for-4 in the win. ''We used to dream about getting to .500, and now we're looking at first place. This is an incredible turnaround.''

The Tigers will try to match their season-high six-game winning streak from April 28-May 3. First baseman Chris Shelton, who leads the Tigers with a .311 batting average, had a three-run RBI double in the win and is hitting .438 (7-for-16) over the last four games.

Starter Nate Robertson allowed three runs and seven hits over five innings for the win and Todd Jones pitched a scoreless ninth for his 10th save.

Justin Verlander (4-3, 3.77) will take the ball for Detroit on Wednesday looking for his fourth win in five starts. The rookie right-hander allowed three runs and seven hits over 6 1-3 innings on May 10 in a 6-3 win over Baltimore.

He is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA against Minnesota, including on April 29 when he scattered six hits over seven innings in an 18-1 win over the Twins.

Johan Santana (4-3, 3.38) tries to win his fifth consecutive start when he takes the mound for Minnesota. The Twins' ace has been dominant in his last four starts, striking out 40 batters and walking just three while going at least seven innings in each of those outings.

The AL Cy Young Award winner allowed one run and five hits and recorded 10 strikeouts and one walk in a 10-1 win over the White Sox on Friday.

''He was as good as you can do it,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''He kept them off balance and kept attacking them.''

Santana kept the Tigers off balance in a 4-2 win on May 7, striking out 11 and carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He is 8-1 in 17 appearances versus Detroit with a 2.54 ERA, including a 2-0 record with a 1.86 ERA at Comerica Park.

The Twins have dropped three in a row and are just 5-14 on the road this season.

Jim Lemon, 78, Outfielder, Is Dead; Earned Visit With Eisenhower

Jim Lemon, who hit 164 home runs and earned a visit with a box-seat fan named Dwight D. Eisenhower after slugging three consecutive homers in a game for the Washington Senators in 1956, died Sunday at his home in Brandon, Miss. He was 78.

The cause was cancer, his son Patrick said.

During the original Senators' final years in Washington before they became the Minnesota Twins, Lemon, an outfielder who hit right-handed, teamed with Harmon Killebrew, Roy Sievers and Bob Allison in a power-hitting lineup. In 1959, Lemon hit 33 home runs with 100 runs batted in. He was an All-Star the next season, when he had 38 homers and 100 R.B.I.

On the night of Aug. 31, 1956, in his first full major league season, Lemon became the first Senators player to hit three home runs in a game at Griffith Stadium in Washington, connecting against the Yankees' Whitey Ford. The Yankees' Joe DiMaggio was the only player with a three-homer game at Griffith Stadium before Lemon's feat.

President Eisenhower, in a rare appearance at the park aside from opening day ceremonies, called Lemon to his seat to shake hands after he sent three drives into the left-field bleachers.

"At least a dozen guys have claimed they caught two of the homers," Lemon once told The Washington Post. The Senators nonetheless lost, 6-4.

Lemon, a native of Covington, Va., made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1950. He played for the Senators and the Twins from 1954 to early 1963 and finished his career in '63 with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago White Sox. He had a .262 career batting average for 12 major league seasons.

He managed the second Washington Senators franchise to a 65-96 record in 1968 and was a coach and instructor for the Twins.

In addition to his son Patrick, of Brandon, he is survived by his wife, Ella; his son Joseph, of Lynchburg, Va., a daughter, Le Lemon, of Darnestown, Md.; a brother, William, of Roanoke, Va.; and seven grandchildren.

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Mariners-Twins Preview

Returning home couldn't fix the woes of the Minnesota Twins. They now hope Johan Santana can.

The Twins, losers of four straight games and 11 of 14, send their ace to the hill Tuesday to wrap up their two-game series with the Seattle Mariners.

Minnesota (9-16) allowed five runs in the sixth inning en route to an 8-2 defeat in Monday's series opener. The Twins have been outscored 41-3 during their four-game losing skid, and have allowed six or more runs in 15 of 25 games this season.

''Guys are trying. Guys are out there playing. You've also got to score some runs, too,'' said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team went 2-7 on a road trip before losing at home Monday. ''Our starters haven't been getting it done. Our offense has to pick them up.''

Starter Scott Baker allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings Monday, continuing a miserable season for the Minnesota rotation. Twins starters have a major league-high 7.25 ERA and are allowing opponents to bat .328 against them.

The Twins look to Santana (1-3, 4.45 ERA) to turn the tide just as he seems to be rounding into form. The 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner earned his first win of the season Thursday at Kansas City, limiting the Royals to three runs and seven hits in eight innings while striking out a season-high 10 in Minnesota's last victory.

''I felt pretty good,'' said Santana, who had never opened a season 0-3 before. ''I was throwing the fastball in and out of the plate and I was able to throw my changeup. It was a nice day.''

Santana has won all four of his career starts against the Mariners, posting a 2.08 ERA in those outings.

Seattle left fielder Raul Ibanez has enjoyed success against Santana, going 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer. Ibanez also went 2-for-5 with a double Monday in his second consecutive multihit game.

Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn (2-3, 3.51) gets the start on a mound where he's pitched some of his best ball. Washburn is 4-0 with a 2.20 ERA in five starts at the Metrodome. Among pitchers with at least five starts at the venue, only Jimmy Key (2.06) posted a lower ERA.

Washburn snapped a personal three-game losing streak with a win over the Chicago White Sox last Wednesday, when he held the defending World Series champions to one run and four hits in 6 2-3 innings.

The Mariners (12-15) have seen their offense bust out during their current three-game winning streak, with 20 runs and 41 hits over that span. Seattle had scored five runs or fewer in each of its eight previous contests.

''The meat of our order hasn't really done anything,'' said first baseman Richie Sexson, who is batting just .214 but homered Monday for his 1,000th career hit. ''We're still winning games and floating around .500, so that's good. As soon as we start clicking and doing some things that we can do, we'll start winning more consistently.''

Tigers return home to host Twins

Brad Radke hopes to stop a personal two-game losing streak this evening when the Minnesota Twins open a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

After winning his first two starts of the year, Radke has hit the skids. In his last start Saturday against the Chicago White Sox, the 33-year-old righthander was tagged with the loss after he surrendered six runs on 10 hits over five frames. The outing raised Radke's earned run average to 7.50.

Radke, though, has been brilliant over the course of his career against the Tigers. He owns a 19-6 mark lifetime mark against them with a 4.49 ERA in 33 starts, and is a perfect 7-0 in 12 starts at Comerica.

On Thursday, Luis Castillo went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in while Johan Santana pitched eight strong innings as Minnesota downed Kansas City, 7-3, in the finale of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.

Santana (1-3) earned his first win of the season as he allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out 10 in his fifth start of the season.

Michael Cuddyer went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Luis Rodriguez also scored two runs for the Twins, who took two of three from Kansas City.

Detroit will pin its hopes tonight on lefthander Nate Robertson, who is coming off the best outing of his season Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. Robertson limited the Mariners to just two hits over seven scoreless innings to improve to 2-2 on the year, while lowering his ERA nearly three runs to 4.98.

Robertson is just 2-5 lifetime versus the Twins with a 4.85 ERA in 10 games, nine of which have been starts.

The Tigers enter tonight's tilt after dropping two of three to the LA Angels of Anaheim, culminating with a 4-0 loss on Wednesday in the series finale. Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe had the only hits for Detroit, which fell for just the second time in its last eight games.

Mike Maroth (3-1) allowed four runs on nine hits in six-plus innings of work, suffering his first loss of the season.

Minnesota took 11 of 19 from the Tigers last season and is 38-19 against them since the start of the 2003 campaign. The Twins lost four of six in the Motor City a year ago, but are 18-11 in their last 29 visits.

Twins Host A's, Seek First Win Streak Of Year

Veteran righthander Esteban Loaiza seeks his 11th career win against the Minnesota Twins when the Oakland Athletics visit the Metrodome for the second of a three-game series.

Loaiza, who was on the losing end of a 6-2 verdict to the Seattle Mariners Thursday in his first 2006 appearance, is 10-8 lifetime against the Twins in 23 appearances (20 starts) with a 3.71 earned run average in 131 innings.

The 34-year-old was 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA in 34 starts with the Washington Nationals last season and is 112-100 with a 4.61 ERA over 335 big-league appearances, including 298 starts.

Mound opponent Carlos Silva was also beaten in his 2006 curtain-raiser, allowing five hits and six runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Silva was 9-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 27 starts for Minnesota in 2005.

He's made four appearances and three starts against Oakland in his career, picking up no-decisions throughout while compiling a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings.

On Tuesday, Tony Batista cracked a three-run home run to highlight a six-run third inning as Minnesota bested Oakland, 7-6, in the Twins' home opener.

Batista finished 2-for-4 with three RBI for the Twins, who snapped a four-game skid and won just their second tilt of the season. Justin Morneau was 1-for-4 and also hit a home run for Minnesota, while Joe Mauer was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.

Brad Radke (2-0) started and settled down after a rocky start. The veteran righthander toiled seven innings and gave up four runs on six hits.

Eric Chavez was 2-for-4 with two home runs, three RBI and two runs scored for the Athletics, who lost for the first time in four games. Bobby Crosby was 2- for-5 with a home run for Oakland.

Dan Haren (0-1) started and was touched for seven runs on nine hits in just six innings of work en route to the loss.

Oakland took three of four in their lone visit to the Metrodome last year and has won six of the last nine meetings between the clubs in Minnesota.

Twins Honor Kirby Puckett During Home Opener

The Minnesota Twins will honor former center fielder Kirby Puckett during the team's home opener at the Metrodome on Tuesday night.

Puckett died March 6 after suffering a massive stroke in his home. The Hall of Famer was 45.

Puckett's children, Catherine and Kirby Jr., will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the home opener against the Oakland A's.

Fans will gather Tuesday night at Kirby Puckett Place for the game, but on Monday, inside the Metrodome, Ron Gardenhire and his staff were in tune to Puckett's place in Twins baseball.

"I think that the coaching staff here that was close to him and Torii (Hunter) who was close to him and a few of the guys who got to know him, sure, you know," Gardenhire said. "It's always going to be thought about. We've got his patch on our uniforms and every time I look at it I think about it."

To honor Puckett, the Twins painted his number, 34, in center field. Al Kuehner, who has worked for the grounds crew since the dome opened, painted the number.

"It's a nice little tribute to Kirby," Kuehner said. "He was always very nice to us, great guy. Just treated us well, treated us like one of the ballplayers actually."

It is not standard practice to paint on a field, but Puckett was not a standard baseball player.

"You look and see (and) there's not typically any type of logos out in center field on Major League Baseball fields," said Peter Martin, the Twins vice president of communications. "And they gave us the opportunity and a waiver to go ahead and put that out there for our entire first home stand."

The tribute means a lot to anyone who knew or was associated with Puckett. It may mean the most to Torii Hunter, who now plays in center field for the Twins. Hunter is well aware why his mentor is on his mind.

"It means a lot," Hunter said. "I have so much respect for Kirby and that's his spot, center field. He made, you know, center field here and he made me what I am today."

Twins release Winter Caravan schedule

There is snow on the ground, temperatures are dropping into the teens and winter is in full swing up in the Twin Cities, which means only one thing -- the time is almost here for Winter Caravan.
An annual tradition for the past 46 years, the 2006 Twins Winter Caravan will visit more than 50 communities in four states during the last two weeks of January leading up to TwinsFest. Sponsored by Dodge and your friendly Dodge dealers, this year's event will have four separate tours with the Northwest jaunt taking place Jan. 16-19 and the Central, North and South trips occurring from Jan. 23-26.

The caravan features four teams of current and former players visiting schools, hospitals and other community locations during the day, before ending with a traditional "Hot Stove League" program each evening.

First up on the caravan schedule will be the Northwest leg that will travel up into North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Minnesota near the Dakota borders. The Central, North and South legs will take place on the following week in the four days heading into TwinsFest with stops ranging from Mason City, Iowa, all the way up to Duluth, Minn.

Scheduled to participate in this year's Midwest bus tour are catcher Joe Mauer, pitcher Joe Nathan, pitcher Carlos Silva, outfielder Michael Cuddyer and manager Ron Gardenhire, among others. Former Twins greats Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew will also take part in the trip.

Joining the current and former players on each leg of the tour will be a member of the Twins radio/television broadcast team, including WCCO Radio's John Gordon and Dan Gladden, and Fox Sports Net North's Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven. Every trip will also feature appearances by Twins Sports Inc. president Jerry Bell, Twins president Dave St. Peter, and Twins general manager Terry Ryan.

More information on destinations and times for the events will be available at twinsbaseball.com in the coming days, or fans can tune in to their local Twins Radio Network affiliate. For more questions, please call 1-800-33-TWINS.

U, Twins stadium fortunes diverge

They've been racing against year-end stadium deadlines since spring. The University of Minnesota will make it. The Minnesota Twins won't.
The result is further indication that the U football team will be the first of three sports supplicants to get approval for a publicly assisted stadium, although timing for final authorization is unclear and, depending on state Capitol politics, could move at a glacial pace.
The outcome clearly puts the Twins in second place for a stadium, and the Minnesota Vikings a distant third.
At the university Monday, officials said they expect TCF Bank to renew a crucial naming-rights agreement that would provide $35 million toward construction of a $248 million campus football stadium. The agreement is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, but officials were negotiating an extension Monday and were confident one will be hammered out in the next few days.
"We have every indication they'll do an extension,'' U chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said. "Our relationship with TCF on all fronts has been very good.''
The pact gives TCF exclusive banking arrangements on the Twin Cities campus, in addition to a name on the door. The 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium would be built on a surface parking area across from Williams and Mariucci arenas, merely a long throw from where Memorial Stadium sat for 68 years. That stadium was demolished after the Gophers began playing in the Metrodome in 1982.
Sixty percent of the cost would come from private sources such as TCF and from student fees. At last count, $52.5 million has been raised. The governor and legislators need to approve the other 40 percent.
"TCF and the university want the Legislature to do its job as soon as possible,'' said U general counsel Mark Rotenberg, who still hopes the governor will call a special legislative session to get the job done before the March 1 start of the 2006 regular session. The governor favors the U plan, but has shied away from calling a special session for political and procedural reasons.
University officials believe that quick approval at the Capitol would give potential donors and corporate sponsors the incentive to make their pledges, and that construction could begin soon afterward.
Meanwhile, the Twins and their stadium supporters on the Hennepin County Board were not optimistic Monday about the future of a $508 million ballpark in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis, and neither had the confidence to try to extend a ballpark agreement that's scheduled to expire Dec. 31.
The Twins and Mike Opat, the board's lead stadium supporter, said the agreement will be allowed to expire because the Twins have battled to build a subsidized ballpark for 10 years and have been forced to go back to the drawing board each time.
"How many times can you push a rock up a hill?'' Opat asked rhetorically, in reference to the Greek myth of Sisyphus.
Opat and Twins officials said an attempt to revive the agreement in 2006 would be made only if Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders clearly said the chances of approval at the Capitol are very good.
"It's a treacherous political environment,'' Twins president Dave St. Peter said. Asked if the Twins are sufficiently frustrated by their stadium failures to consider relocating to another city, St. Peter said, "We've had zero discussions about that.''
The ballpark plan would be financed by a Hennepin County sales tax 0.15 percent, or 3 cents on a $20 purchase that would pay for three-quarters of the open-air stadium. The Twins would pay the rest, and receive all the stadium revenue.
The governor and Legislature need to approve any new sales tax, even a local one. As part of their Capitol request, the Twins and county officials have wanted an exclusion from a law requiring a local referendum on a new sales taxes contending a ballot issue would create delays and greater expense, even if it were to pass. Opponents say ballpark supporters' real fear is that residents would vote it down.
A legislative vote on the Twins and university projects has been delayed many months by protracted political fighting at the Capitol, first over balancing the state budget and then over an agenda for a special session that could be used to approve the U plan and possibly the Twins project.
The Vikings and Anoka County have put together a legislative proposal for a stadium in Blaine, but leaders at the Capitol say the Vikings will be the last team to get approval, in part because their plan envisions a greater local sales tax and greater state assistance.
That plan, less firm than the two others, could result in a stadium costing as much as $790 million when road improvements are included. As much as $230 million would come from the state and $280 million from a 0.75 percent county sales tax.

Jones cuts ties with Twins

Former Minnesota Twins outfielder Jacque (jahk) Jones could be with a new team by the end of the week.
As expected, Jones rejected the Twins' offer of salary arbitration and cut his ties with the team yesterday.
Jones tells the Star Tribune that he's surprised the Twins didn't try to re-sign him.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan isn't commenting until he gets official word that Jones had declined arbitration.
Jones' agent, Danny Lozano, says Jones has received contract offers from three teams. He would not identify them.
Jones made five (m) million dollars last season. He led the Twins with 23 home runs last season.

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