<
>

Twins win fifth straight; M's lose third in a row

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Back to the .500 mark, the Minnesota Twins
have nearly forgotten about their awful first-half finish.

Chris Gomez hit a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning to
lead Minnesota to its fifth consecutive victory, 5-4 over the
Seattle Mariners on Monday night.

"We're just playing better overall baseball," said Gomez,
who's 8-for-20 with four RBI during the streak.

Minnesota had lost lost 22 of 28 going into the All-Star break.

"A lot of stuff is going our way now," Gomez said.

Torii Hunter homered and Shannon Stewart went 2-for-4 with an
RBI for Minnesota, on its best stretch since winning six straight
from May 4-9.

"Hopefully we can keep on rolling," said manager Ron
Gardenhire, whose team moved within 5{ games of first-place Kansas
City in the AL Central and evened its record (49-49) for the first
time since July 8.

Mark McLemore keyed a four-run rally in the seventh with a
two-run double for the AL West-leading Mariners, who have won only
one of their last six series. Seattle, which finishes a two-game
set with the Twins on Tuesday night, has dropped three straight
games for the first time since April 9-11.

"I like to look at it as a positive sign that we don't give up
early in the game," manager Bob Melvin said. "That's a sign of a
team that keeps clawing. That's what we'll continue to do."

Hunter led off the eighth with a single against Arthur Rhodes
(2-3), and A.J. Pierzynski forced him at second with a
fielder's-choice grounder. Jacque Jones hit a long single off the
tall wall in right, and Gomez hit a soft liner over McLemore's head
at shortstop off Jeff Nelson.

It's the first time this year Seattle's bullpen has lost
back-to-back games.

Signed to a minor league contract in January, Gomez is batting
.296 in 115 at-bats. He has been very valuable for the Twins with
third baseman Corey Koskie on the disabled list with a back injury.

"He's played very well at third base -- that's big shoes to
fill," Gardenhire said. "He's gotten a lot of big hits for us."

Juan Rincon (2-3) struck out both batters he faced in the eighth
for the victory, and Eddie Guardado pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his
23rd save in 25 chances.

After sweeping a four-game series from Oakland over the weekend,
the Twins scored four times in the first three innings against
Seattle's young righty, Joel Pineiro, who had won six straight
starts.

Pineiro, who has three of the four victories by the Mariners'
rotation this month, gave up four runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings
while walking one and striking out three.

"They've been hot. They've been on a roll," he said. "They
kept it going. They either get me early or they don't get me."

Twins starter Kyle Lohse was 0-4 with an 11.00 ERA in his last
previous six starts after going 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA in the eight
outings before that. He gave up just two hits through five inning
and didn't allow a runner to reach second base until two were out
in the seventh.

That's when trouble bean -- six straight batters reached base,
four on two-strike pitches. Mike Cameron got a double when his ball
glanced off the glove of a diving Cristian Guzman at shortstop and
into shallow left.

Lohse thought he had Ben Davis struck out, but Davis walked.
McLemore doubled in Seattle's first two runs, and LaTroy Hawkins
came in as Lohse shot a frustrated stare toward home plate umpire
Dana DeMuth on his way to the dugout after allowing five hits,
three runs and two walks in 6 2-3 innings.

Hawkins gave up RBI singles to Ichiro Suzuki and Randy Winn that
tied the game at 4, but the Twins rallied against Rhodes -- who gave
up a two-run, walk-off homer to Kansas City's Carlos Beltran on
Sunday -- and Nelson.

"That's two of the best in the league at what they do,"
Gardenhire said.

Game notes
Seattle DH Edgar Martinez left with tightness in his left
calf after a walk and single, and Melvin doubted he'd be able to
play Tuesday. "He was wise enough to take himself out -- hopefully
that will cut it to a minimum," Melvin said. ... Bloomquist played
3B in place of Jeff Cirillo, who's hitless in his last 18 at-bats.
... The Twins beat Seattle at home for just the third time in 13
games. ... Stewart is now 7-for-16 with the Twins since his
acquisition from Toronto last week. ... Hunter hit his 17th homer,
his fourth in the last six games.