MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Even when he's in a hitting slump, Torii
Hunter always has his glove and his arm.
Hunter hit a three-run homer and threw out two runners from
center field to Tuesday night lead the Twins to a 11-4 victory over
the Detroit Tigers.
"That's why he's up for the MVP award,'' Minnesota manager Ron
Gardenhire. "That's the guy we know and love.''
Dustan Mohr went 3-for-4 with a homer for the Twins, who lowered
their magic number to five for clinching the AL Central and their
first playoff berth since winning the World Series in 1991. They
had a season-high 11 extra-base hits and scored their most runs
since July 22, improving to 40-19 against their division.
Hunter's numbers have tailed off -- 20 of his career-high 28
homers came before the All-Star break -- but he's still batting .292
with a team-high 88 RBIs.
Cristian Guzman, who went 3-for-5, singled in the first and took
third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run single by Corey Koskie.
Then Hunter hit Shane Loux's first pitch 402 feet to straightaway
center and put the Twins up 3-0.
Lohse gave up three sharp singles in the fourth, but Hunter, a
Gold Glove winner last year, preserved the lead.
Bobby Higginson tried to stretch his leadoff hit into a double,
but Hunter threw him out easily at second. Robert Fick singled and
tried to take an extra base on Mike Rivera's single, but Hunter got
him on a close play at third.
"He's been doing it all year for us,'' Mohr said. "If Torii
doesn't make those plays, maybe the game goes the other way.''
Detroit manager Luis Pujols was disappointed.
"I know you want to be aggressive,'' he said, "but you've got
to be smart, too.''
Twins starter Kyle Lohse (12-8), pitching for the first time
since Aug. 31 because of a handful of off days, surrendered four
runs and nine hits in five innings while striking out seven.
Pulling to 6-4, the Tigers got four straight one-out hits in the
fifth against Lohse. Gardenhire considered pulling him, but Lohse
struck out Bobby Higginson and got Fick to fly out to Hunter to
earn his second victory since July 24.
"I knew I was struggling,'' Lohse said, "but I always feel
like I can get out of it. Hopefully, he (Gardenhire) knows it,
He does now, if not before.
"His first time out there in awhile,'' Gardenhire said. "You
have to give him a little leeway there, but he battled through
Omar Infante hit a two-run homer -- his first in the majors -- for
the Tigers, who have lost 11 of 13. Loux (0-1) lost his major
league debut, giving up six runs -- five earned -- and six hits in
Loux, drafted out of high school in the second round by Detroit
in 1997, retired eight straight after Hunter's homer, but he was
roughed up in the fourth.
The Twins scored three times with three straight two-out hits --
the last coming when A.J. Pierzynski tripled and scored on an error
when second baseman Damion Easley's relay throw sailed over Chris
Truby's head at third and nearly into the seats.
"The first inning was kind of rough, but it was pretty much
what I expected,'' said Loux, who had 17 family members in
attendance. "I was pretty nervous.''
Pierzynski set the team record for triples by a catcher
with six, and Guzman tripled for the second straight night. After
leading the majors each of the last two seasons, Guzman has only
six this year. He said he wouldn't mind if his slower teammate
wound up with more triples. "Oh, no, I think he'll be happy,''
Guzman said. ... On a strikeout in the fifth, Rivera's bat went
flying down the line and rolled almost to the bullpen. Pena, on
third base, wound up 10 feet toward second base off the bag in an
attempt to dance out of the way and was almost thrown out by
Pierzynski. ... The Tigers have used 54 players this year. Loux was
the 13th to make his major league debut.