Radke strikes out nine Rangers

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Brad Radke, Torii Hunter and the rest of the
Minnesota Twins were on the brink of contraction three years ago.
Now they're poised for a third straight division title.

Radke had a season-high nine strikeouts in eight innings to give
Minnesota a three-game sweep of Texas and a nine-game lead in the
AL Central with a 2-0 shutout of the Rangers on Thursday night.

"I hate to be cocky, but if we lose this lead right here I
don't think we should have a team," Hunter said.

"This is when teams make themselves or break themselves,"
manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We have to come out with some
intensity now and finish this thing off."

Radke (10-7) had the Rangers off balance all night, striking out
the side in the fourth and retiring eight straight during one
stretch. He allowed five hits and walked one in Minnesota's seventh

"Maybe he knew I wasn't out there in center field, so he struck
out a few more guys," said Hunter, who was in the lineup as the
designated hitter.

"Yeah that's a good point, instead of him robbing home runs,"
Radke said when told of Hunter's theory. "Thanks, Torii."

Joe Nathan threw a perfect ninth for his 37th save, completing
the combined five-hitter as the Twins took their largest division
lead of the season.

Kenny Rogers (15-7) allowed just one run in six-plus innings,
but Texas tied a season high with its fourth straight loss and fell
5 games behind Oakland in the West.

"When you lose three in a row and the teams you're chasing win
all three, it hurts and makes the hill harder to climb," Rogers
said. "But, by no means is it over."

The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Lew Ford led off with a
single, Cristian Guzman walked and both moved up on Michael
Cuddyer's sacrifice. Rookie Terry Tiffee followed with an RBI
groundout, giving him three RBI in his first two big league games.

Frank Francisco's wild pitch in the eighth scored Guzman to make
it 2-0.

Rogers allowed four hits, struck out three and tied a career
high with seven walks. Rogers, who went 13-8 with Minnesota last
season, made his first trip back to the Metrodome and received a
warm ovation when he left in the seventh.

The Rangers haven't won in the Metrodome since July 13, 2002.
Part of the reason may be bad luck -- Hank Blalock hit a foulball
off a speaker in the eighth that bounced back into play and was
caught by Guzman for an out.

"This is the way baseball is," said Kevin Mench, who extended
his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games with a triple in the
second. "We played tough and to come up on the short end is

The Rangers had a great chance in the fifth when Mench and Gary
Matthews Jr. led off with consecutive infield singles to put
runners on the corners. But Radke struck out Gerald Laird, got Dave
Dellucci to line out and Michael Young to fly out.

"I think, knowing our guys, we'll come out competing again
tomorrow," manager Buck Showalter said. "We competed real well
there against a good club and we'll play a good one tomorrow."

Gardenhire was ejected by first-base umpire Charlie Reliford in
the seventh for arguing. Minnesota had loaded the bases with no
outs when Hunter grounded into a 5-2-3 double play, although it
appeared he beat the throw to first.

Game notes
Radke has won three of four starts, allowing just one
earned run combined in those wins. He allowed a career-high 15 hits
and nine earned runs in his last start, which was at Anaheim and
went just 5 2-3 innings. ... Minnesota improved to 57-1 when
leading after eight innings. ... Mark Teixeira ended his hitting
streak at 11 games, and Blalock ended his at 12.