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Twins improve to 7-1 against Oakland in 2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins stumbled into the
All-Star break in an awful slump and opened the second half against
what might be baseball's top trio of starting pitchers.

Three straight wins? The Twins were a little surprised
themselves.

Doug Mientkiewicz hit a two-run homer and Matthew LeCroy added a
three-run double in Minnesota's 9-4 victory over Mark Mulder and
the Oakland Athletics on Saturday afternoon.

"Man, I can't believe we beat all three of the big dogs," said
the Twins' Torii Hunter.

The only other time Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito have lost
consecutive decisions was April 27-29, 2001, against the Yankees in
New York.

"It's got to happen sometime," Mulder said. "It's not
something any of us are thinking about."

Brad Radke got his first win in 10 starts since May 16 and
Dustan Mohr hit a two-run double for Minnesota, which improved to
7-1 against Oakland this season.

Terrence Long hit a two-run homer and Ramon Hernandez also
homered for the A's, who lost three straight for the first time
since they dropped six in a row April 10-15.

Mulder (12-7) gave up seven hits, five runs and two walks in six
innings while striking out five. This was only the second time this
season he allowed more than four runs and the first time in his
last seven starts he didn't last seven innings or more.

Manager Ken Macha was asked if consecutive losses by his "Big
Three" was demoralizing to his team.

"Generally speaking," Macha said after a 15-second pause.
"It's our job to keep everybody focused and upbeat tomorrow. We
scored some runs out there, so there is some optimism."

The Twins, who lost 22 of 28 heading into the break, fell behind
3-0 against Mulder after taking early leads on Hudson Thursday and
Zito Friday.

"Those guys are so good," Mohr said. "They bring the best out
in you."

The 2002 AL Central champions rallied often for victories, but
this year's team hasn't done it much. The Twins are only 14-40 when
their opponent scores first.

They left two on with one out in the second, but tied it in the
fourth when Mientkiewicz led off with a single and scored on a
two-out RBI double by Chris Gomez. Mohr followed with a two-run
double.

Radke gave Oakland the lead back in the fifth, walking Long and
giving up a two-out bloop single to Miguel Tejada that made it 4-3.

But after Shannon Stewart led off the bottom of the inning with
a walk, Mientkiewicz hit a splitter over the right-field wall to
make it 5-4.

Mientkiewicz also made a diving catch at first base of Denny
Hocking's throw to barely beat a retreating Hernandez and complete
a line-drive double play to end the sixth.

Radke gave up a two-out single to Long in the seventh and was
replaced by J.C. Romero. Radke (6-9) gave up seven hits, four runs
and two walks -- both of them scored -- in 6 2-3 innings while
striking out five.

Long hit a 2-2 pitch from Radke an estimated 411 feet into the
right-field upper deck for his 11th homer to give the A's a 2-0
advantage in the third, their first lead of the series.

With one out in the fourth, Hernandez hammered the first pitch
into the center-field seats, his 12th homer, to make it 3-0.

The Twins broke it open with four in the seventh against Jim
Mecir. They loaded the bases on a bunt single and two walks and
took an 8-4 lead on LeCroy's double down the left-field line.

"I think you're seeing a little more excitement around the old
ballpark," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Game notes
LeCroy scored when a grounder by Jacque Jones went through
the legs of 1B Scott Hatteberg, who has made an error in each game
this series -- half his season total of six. "All I can do is keep
showing up and keep practicing," Hatteberg said. "It's the first
time I've really gone into a defensive fog, and I can't seem to get
a routine play over there." ... Hocking will have an MRI on his
jammed left shoulder he suffered diving for a single hit by Long in
the seventh. The Twins' infield is already thin, since 3B Corey
Koskie (back) missed his fifth straight game and told Gardenhire he
won't be ready to play Monday -- as the Twins had hoped.