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Morneau homers again in Twins' victory

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With the stretch run approaching, the
Minnesota Twins are hitting their stride.

There was plenty of good defense, power hitting and strong
pitching on display Wednesday night.

Justin Morneau homered for the second straight game, a drive on
the first pitch of the sixth inning that sparked the Twins to a 6-3
victory over the Anaheim Angels.

Torii Hunter followed Morneau with a double, then Jacque Jones
hit a two-run homer to break it open for Minnesota -- which has won
13 of 15. After Chicago's loss, the Twins opened a season-high
six-game lead in the AL Central.

"We're playing some of our best baseball," outfielder Lew Ford
said.

Vladimir Guerrero homered for the Angels, who watched struggling
Minnesota starter Kyle Lohse recover from a rough fourth inning to
win for just the third time in 12 starts since the beginning of
June.

Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 31st save in 32
opportunities. Nathan has not allowed an earned run since June 6 --
a span of 24 innings -- and he tied a team record with 24
consecutive saves.

"I think we have some confidence," Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire said. "We knew as some of these guys got going, we
could do some damage."

Lohse (5-8) won 27 games over the last two seasons, but his
unreliability this year has created concern about the back of
Minnesota's rotation. This start was a good sign for the Twins.

"If we can get Kyle rolling along," Gardenhire said, "that's
going to be a big thing."

Lohse gave up nine hits, one walk and three runs in seven
innings, striking out four in his longest outing after the All-Star
break. His final start of the first half was a six-hit shutout
against Kansas City, but he's been shaky since then. His ERA is
5.14.

"There's time for me to get things going," Lohse said. "I
want to do everything I can to keep the roll going the way it's
been."

Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia flip-flopped his rotation to give
Aaron Sele an extra rest day. Ramon Ortiz, whose status in the
rotation is in question along with Sele, took his place.

Ortiz (3-7) threw well at times, but he got roughed up in the
third and the sixth. He gave up 11 hits and six runs while striking
out two in 6 2-3 innings.

"Minnesota plays very well here," he said. "You've got to be
good to win here. The only thing I can do is go get it my next
game.

The Angels are in third place, 3½ games behind Oakland in the AL
West.

"We're losing two games here ... so what?" Ortiz said.
"Anaheim's got talent, and we'll be good. We can't think too much
about losing one game. I still look at us as a playoff team."

Morneau's path to play every day was cleared when the Twins
traded fan favorite and Gold Glove first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz
on Saturday. The 23-year-old Canadian, one of baseball's best
power-hitting prospects, has seven homers and 19 RBI in 99
at-bats.

Jones' homer could've been caught. Left fielder Jose Guillen
misjudged the ball, moved to his left at the last second to make an
awkward jump and had the ball bounce off his glove and into the
seats -- putting the Twins up 6-3.

The Twins took a 3-0 lead in the third, starting with an RBI
single by Luis Rivas that scored Corey Koskie. Shannon Stewart
doubled Rivas home, and a fielder's choice grounder by Ford drove
in Stewart.

Lohse promptly surrendered his lead in the fourth, narrowly
avoiding a huge hole when Garret Anderson's drive to deep center
with the bases loaded was caught by Hunter at the warning track to
end it.

"We had the makings of something special, but he threw some
pitches to get out of it," Scioscia said. "That definitely
changed the momentum of the game."

Guerrero led off the inning with his 24th homer, and five of the
next six Angels got hits. Rookie Robb Quinlan, who extended his
hitting streak to 15 games in the first inning, drove Guillen with
a groundout. Then Jose Molina's RBI single scored Darin Erstad and
tied it at 3.

"We gave some scoring opportunities away, and they have really
good offense," Anaheim second baseman Adam Kennedy said. "If you
let them keep it close, they'll hurt you."

Game notes
Nathan matched Eddie Guardado's mark of 24 straight saves,
set from Sept. 4, 2002, to June 5, 2003. ... Though they lost for
the third straight time on the road, the Angels (27-26) are one of
three AL teams with winning records away from home. The Twins and
Yankees are the others.