Twins move within half-game of Central lead after rolling O's in opener

BALTIMORE -- First place in the AL Central is within the Minnesota Twins' grasp.

Denard Span homered twice and drove in four runs, Carlos Gomez had a career-high four RBIs and the Twins moved within a half-game of the division lead by routing the Baltimore Orioles 12-2 Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader.

"Where we're at in the standings right now, we're just trying to blow that stuff off and get back to playing good baseball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Tonight was a good start."

The Twins, who began the day a game behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox, can force a tie atop the Central by completing a sweep of the twinbill, which was necessitated by a rainout Friday night.

A second consecutive day of rain forced Chicago to postpone its scheduled home doubleheader against Detroit on Saturday and the teams will play a split doubleheader Sunday -- if the remnants of Hurricane Ike, which are tracking toward the Upper Midwest, do not interfere.

Scott Baker (9-4) walked three, struck out four and allowed only one hit over his final five innings. He has won two of three starts after a string of six winless outings.

"Sometimes when I throw breaking pitches early in the count, it kind of just gets me back in the groove I need to be in," said Baker, who rebounded after allowing three hits in the first. "I threw some good breaking pitches and that kind of helped my fastball command later in the game."

Justin Morneau reached base five times with four hits and a walk and had two RBIs for Minnesota.

"They continued what they're capable of doing -- they hit with men on base and they got two-out hits. You give them a little room and they take advantage of it," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "That's why they're where they are in the standings."

Baltimore has lost 16 of 19 to fall 16 games under .500, matching a season low.

Minnesota equaled a season high by drawing 10 walks and tagged the Orioles' bullpen for eight runs.

"It takes the air right out of that ball is what it does," Trembley said. "It's hard mentally to keep any type of focus. The game is a game of rhythm. The game is based on tempo."

And the Twins were happy to exploit the Orioles' generosity.

"We left a lot of men on base, had plenty of opportunities," Gardenhire said. "They walked, I don't know, seven or eight guys. Ten? I quit counting. We had plenty of opportunities to open the game up there for five or six innings. It didn't look like we were going to do it, and then finally some big hits there late."

The Twins jumped on Daniel Cabrera (8-10) for a quick 1-0 lead in the first on Jason Kubel's two-out, RBI double. Baltimore tied it in the bottom half on a run-scoring single by Ramon Hernandez.

Span's solo shot, a towering drive onto the right-field flag court, ignited a three-run third for a 4-1 lead.

Alexi Casilla then singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, went to third on a groundout and scored on Morneau's double. Kubel walked and an error by Baltimore shortstop Brandon Fahey loaded the bases before Brian Buscher hit into a fielder's choice, scoring Morneau.

Cabrera departed after walking Nick Punto and Gomez with one out in the sixth. Brian Burres relieved and walked Span to load the bases before Casilla bounced into an inning-ending double play aided by an interference call on Gomez at second.

Cabrera allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out one.

"For the last two weeks, I've made two starts," Cabrera said. "That's going to happen."

In the seventh, Morneau added an RBI double and Gomez drove home a pair with a bases-loaded single off Alfredo Simon.

Nick Markakis had an RBI double in the Baltimore seventh.

Gomez hit a two-run double in the ninth and before Span's three-run homer off Alberto Castillo.

Game notes
Before the game, the Twins activated OF Michael Cuddyer (broken left foot) from the 15-day disabled list. Cuddyer is still unable to run pain-free and will be used only as a pinch hitter for the immediate future. He bounced out as a pinch hitter in the ninth. ... Cabrera has walked an AL-high 90 batters. Last season, he led the league with 108 free passes. ... Baltimore allowed a first-inning run for the 65th time this season, the 18th time in 29 games.