<
>

Twins end six-game losing skid; A's win streak over

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota finally mustered some momentum,
enough to even slow streaking Oakland.

Lew Ford's triple scored Justin Morneau in the bottom of the
ninth inning, lifting the Twins past the Athletics 4-3 on Wednesday
to end Minnesota's six-game losing skid and Oakland's six-game
winning streak.

"It was huge," said Michael Cuddyer, who homered twice. "By
the way we celebrated on the field, it was about like we won the
World Series."

That's what happens when a team has scored only 70 runs since
the All-Star break, second fewest in the league, and won only three
of the last 13 games. But Morneau drew a walk with two outs against
Justin Duchscherer (4-2), setting up the late drama.

Ford's line drive caromed off the wall in right, barely eluding
Nick Swisher's glove. Swisher gathered himself after crashing into
the padding and threw to cutoff man Mark Ellis, who fired home.
Catcher Jason Kendall's tag missed Morneau, who dived headfirst
wide of the plate and touched it with his left hand.

"He made a good slide," Kendall said. "I know I hit the
jersey, but I don't know if it was after he touched the plate."

Joe Nathan (3-3) pitched a perfect ninth for the victory, one
badly needed to lift the Twins' sagging spirits.

"It was nice to see some smiles in the clubhouse for once,"
manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Wearing red caps with blue bills in a superstitious search for a
spark, the Twins got another sterling start from Carlos Silva -- who
gleefully discussed a goofy, unintelligible rap song he recently
recorded with teammates Johan Santana and Juan Castro.

"It's our secret weapon," Silva said. "Our team likes the
song a lot. We made it just for the team."

Whatever works.

"We don't know where to go from here, but it was a nice
night," said Gardenhire, whose team led the AL wild card race for
most of the season until the midsummer slide.

The A's, who began the day one game behind first-place Los
Angeles in the AL West, have since taken over the wild card by
winning 33 of their previous 40 games.

They were on their way to another victory, until Cuddyer's
two-run homer off Kiko Calero put the Twins up 3-2 in the seventh --
ruining Rich Harden's chance at winning his fifth straight start.
Manager Ken Macha removed him with two outs and Jacque Jones on
first.

"There's nothing you can do," Harden said. "He's already made
up his mind. I felt confident with Kiko coming in."

Harden threw 102 pitches, yielding three hits, two runs and two
walks while striking out seven.

Silva, who has been the most consistent starter on one of
baseball's best pitching staffs, promptly surrendered the lead.
Swisher led off the eighth with a double, moved up on a sacrifice
bunt by Ellis and scored easily on a sacrifice fly by Kendall.

Silva gave up five hits and three runs (two earned) while
striking out four in eight innings. It was the 13th time in 20
starts this season Silva has not allowed a walk.

Harden's only slip-up was in the third inning, when Cuddyer hit
a one-out line drive to left-center that barely cleared the wall
for a homer that tied the game at 1. Jason Bartlett followed with a
single, and Nick Punto walked with two outs -- but Joe Mauer was
retired on a groundout to end that threat.

Matthew LeCroy, Jones and Morneau -- Nos. 4, 5 and 6 in the
batting order -- struck out during 1-2-3 innings their first two
times up. Four of Harden's first six innings were perfect.

"I felt great," he said.

Silva hasn't won in five starts since July 4, because -- not
surprisingly -- the run support just hasn't been there. During that
stretch, he has pitched 38 innings and allowed only nine earned
runs.

Rookie Dan Johnson homered to put Oakland up 2-1 in the seventh,
giving a group of his friends and family sitting along the first
base line reason to stand and cheer. Johnson, who grew up in the
Minneapolis suburb of Coon Rapids, hit a 1-0 pitch from Silva off
the blue banks of football seats above right field.

"It put us ahead for a bit, but it was for nothing," Johnson
said. "It's a team game."

Game notes
This was Cuddyer's first career multihomer game. ...
Johnson, who has seven homers, has hit in seven straight games. ...
The Twins are hitless in their last 21 at-bats with runners in
scoring position.