MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins used a strong
intradivision record to win the last two AL Central titles, and
there was nobody they beat more often than the Detroit Tigers.
Despite dropping two of three to the Twins this week, the Tigers
are 9-7 overall and won't be a sure victory anymore.Fill-in Lew Ford kept up his strong hitting with a three-run
homer, Johan Santana picked up his first victory and the Twins
edged the Tigers 4-3 on Thursday afternoon."That's what we're after -- trying to win series," Minnesota
manager Ron Gardenhire said.Brandon Inge went 2-for-2 with a double, two walks and a homer
for the Tigers, who lost 119 games last year.Minnesota is 47-15 against Detroit since 2001, but the teams
have split six games this month."It's going to be a close race," Inge said. "I think that
they're only going to get better."The Twins feel the same way about the Tigers.By adding Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez, Rondell White and
Fernando Vina, Detroit has significantly upgraded its lineup.Santana (1-0) was impressed. He gave up three runs, three walks
and seven hits while striking out six in his best outing this year.
He loaded the bases in the second, but got out of the jam by
striking out Omar Infante to end the inning."They give you a good challenge," said Santana, who put the
first two runners on in three of his six innings. "They're going
to make you throw a lot of pitches. It's a different team than last
year. You've got to give them some credit."Ford got two hits and now has a team-high 15 RBI since his
call-up on April 10 after Torii Hunter hurt his hamstring. Ford's
homer gave the Twins a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning.Ford has hit in nine of 11 games this year and extended his
hitting streak to a career-best eight games. The speedy outfielder
is batting .450 (18-for-40) with three homers and 10 runs scored."I'm going to put him on the list already as a Tiger-killer,"
Detroit manager Alan Trammell said."This feels great," Ford said.Tigers starter Mike Maroth (2-1) went seven innings, allowing
eight hits, four runs and two walks. He struck out three.Maroth, who last year became the first AL pitcher to lose at
least 20 games since 1980, took his first loss of the season."I think we should've won the game," said Maroth, who received
little run support last season. "That's the difference between
this year's offensive team and last year."The Twins' bullpen did its job. Juan Rincon and J.C. Romero each
threw a scoreless inning, and Joe Nathan worked the ninth for his
fourth save.The Tigers got their first run on a sacrifice fly by White in
the third, but Santana worked his way out of trouble after putting
the first two runners on.Inge's double scored Carlos Pena in the fourth inning to put
Detroit up 2-0, but Minnesota quickly erased the lead in the bottom
half.Doug Mientkiewicz led off with a single, Jose Offerman walked
and Ford crushed a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats.Mientkiewicz grounded into a bases-loaded double play with
nobody out in the fifth to score Cristian Guzman and make it 4-2.Inge homered in the sixth to pull the Tigers back within one.
^Notes:@ Twins LF Shannon Stewart was taken out after the sixth
inning with a cramp in his right hamstring and replaced by Michael
Ryan. Stewart said he was fine, and he'll be evaluated on Friday.
... White hit in all seven games during the Tigers' road trip. ...
The last time Detroit won a series at the Metrodome was Sept. 1999.
... Minnesota is 8-0 when leading after seven innings.