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Jones also had game-winning hit Tuesday

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Still struggling to score, the Minnesota Twins are starting to figure out how to win the close games they
really need.

The Baltimore Orioles sure could've used a couple of these
victories, too.

Jacque Jones homered with one out in the ninth inning, and the
Twins beat the Orioles 3-2 on Wednesday to carry some momentum into
an 11-game trip.

Minnesota has played eight straight one-run games, winning the
last two on ninth-inning hits by Jones to take an important
three-game series from a Baltimore team that has dropped 14 of its
last 22.

The Twins improved to 20-19 in one-run decisions, the most
obvious difference in an AL Central race that the White Sox led by
12 games when the day began. Chicago is 23-9 in one-run games.

"They get old, but we'll take them any way we can," Jones
said.

Jones went the other way on the first pitch he saw from Jason
Grimsley (0-1). His infield single Tuesday night gave Minnesota a
4-3 win.

"When you have a chance to put them away, you have to put them
away," said the Orioles' Brian Roberts. "We spoiled a couple of
good pitching performances."

Rafael Palmeiro hit a two-run homer for Baltimore, one of the
few offensive highlights during an impressive matchup between
Rodrigo Lopez and Brad Radke.

Miguel Tejada just missed a two-out homer in the ninth against
Joe Nathan (2-3), settling for a double off the top of the
right-field wall. Palmeiro was intentionally walked, and Sammy Sosa
struck out swinging.

Palmeiro's big hit also made quite an impact on his placement in
several all-time statistical categories. He tied Wade Boggs for
23rd with 3,010 hits, tied Lou Gehrig for sixth in extra-base hits
with 1,190, passed Frank Robinson to take 10th in total bases with
5,375 and passed Al Simmons for 15th in RBI with 1,829.

But the Orioles were more concerned about the AL East race and
the chances they wasted to stay in first place ahead of Boston and
New York. They fell two games behind the Red Sox.

Grimsley, who had major elbow surgery last October and was not
expected back for at least another two months, was activated from
the disabled list right after the All-Star break. This was his
third appearance.

Denying that he felt any rust, Grimsley was surprised to see
Jones keep his bat back and send the ball to left field.

"Ninety times out of 100, he's going to pull the ball,"
Grimsley said.

The Twins have been sputtering at the plate lately, but they've
shown more signs of patience in the last two games and expressed
confidence in their ability to break this slump. Though catching
the White Sox will be a tall order, they began the day tied for
first with the Yankees in the wild-card race, just ahead of the
Orioles.

"They're battling, they're starting to feel good about
themselves and that's good," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Two
wins in a row will do that."

Trailing 2-0 in the sixth, Minnesota finally got to Lopez in the
sixth when Nick Punto started with a single and scored on Shannon
Stewart's triple. Joe Mauer's groundout drove in Stewart, tying the
game at 2.

Lopez left after walking Stewart with two outs in the eighth,
yielding to Tim Byrdak. Without a decision, Lopez missed a chance
to become Baltimore's first double-digit winner. He gave up six
hits, two runs and one walk while striking out four.

"You've got to win these close ones when you're in a pennant
race," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Radke, who has received just 17 runs of support in his last
seven starts, gave up five hits and two runs in seven innings
without a walk while striking out five and throwing 103 pitches.

Twins starters have been facing a fine margin for error, the way
their teammates have been swinging.

"You've just got to keep plugging away," Stewart said. "It's
just one of those things. It's baseball. You've just got to work
through it."

Game notes
Palmeiro has hit in 10 straight games, and he's 17-for-36
during that span. Nine of his home runs have come over his last 32
games. ... Torii Hunter gave Lopez a scare in the sixth by smoking
a ball back to the mound that glanced off the right-hander's
ribcage and knocked the wind out of him. Lopez recovered and threw
to first for the out before doubling over in pain. After a few
minutes and a few warmup pitches, he was fine and stayed in the
game. ... Stewart ended an 0-for-12 slide with the triple.