Morneau's career day powers Twins past Red Sox

BOSTON (AP) -- Justin Morneau's teammates gathered around the
television showing the final moments of Detroit's loss that moved
Minnesota within a half-game of the AL Central lead.

He was too busy discussing how he helped the Twins get there to
pay much attention.

Morneau had a career-high five hits and Minnesota beat the
Boston Red Sox 7-3 Tuesday night. Soon after that game ended, the
Chicago White Sox finished off a 7-0 win over the Tigers.

"We keep getting closer and closer a little bit every day,"
Morneau said. "The only thing we can really control is if we win,
and the rest will take care of itself. But we're in a good spot
right now."

They weren't on Aug. 7 when they trailed Detroit by 10½ games.
Since then, the Twins are 24-15 and have 12 games left. Detroit has
11 remaining.

"It's kind of exciting," Torii Hunter said. "We're actually
rooting for the Chicago White Sox. Can you believe that?"

The Twins maintained their 4½-game lead over Chicago in the
wild-card race. Boston's magic number for elimination in the AL
East was cut to one, and its magic number for elimination from the
wild-card berth dropped to four.

"We haven't been in this situation for a long time," Doug
Mirabelli said, "but you still have to be professional and go out
there and do the things that you need to do to win ballgames."

They didn't do nearly enough Tuesday, although they did stage a
mild comeback from a 6-0 deficit after three innings. Jason
Bartlett's three-run homer in the four-run second inning, his
second of the year, and Hunter's two-run shot in the third, his
27th, helped Minnesota put together the six-run lead.

Both of the homers came off Tim Wakefield (7-10), who lasted
just 3 1/3 innings in his second start since spending nearly two
months on the disabled list with a stress fracture of the rib cage.
It was only the fourth time in 152 starts at Fenway Park that he
didn't pitch more than 3 1/3 innings.

Morneau entered the game in an 0-for-11 slump. But with his
father in the stands, he singled in the seventh run in the ninth,
completing a 5-for-5 night in which he had two doubles, three
singles, scored two runs and drove in another. He raised his
batting average to .326 and his 124 RBI are second in the AL to
David Ortiz's 129 for Boston.

He could be the AL Most Valuable Player after the season.

"I guess if you want attention, you do it in markets like
Boston," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Hopefully, if we get
to the playoffs he'll be rewarded."

Another MVP contender, Ortiz, who was with the Twins when
Morneau was coming up through their system, was impressed.

"I knew he was going to be that good," Ortiz said. "He's
still learning but it seems to me he's great already."

The Twins got their ninth win in 11 games with solid pitching
from Matt Garza (2-5).

The Red Sox cut a 6-0 deficit in half but got no help from
Ortiz, who went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and remained one
homer short of the Red Sox record of 50, set by Jimmie Foxx in

"I just play my game," Ortiz said. "When you're thinking
about hitting a home run, it's time to walk away from the game."

Garza allowed just one hit in the first four innings. He left
with two outs in the sixth and Minnesota leading 6-2. Dennys Reyes
pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings while a misty rain grew heavier and
has allowed just one earned run in 35 appearances since the
All-Star break.

Joe Nathan pitched the ninth as the Twins improved to 76-0 when
leading after eight innings. Another mark of their solid pitching
is their 27-1 record in their last 28 games when they score four
runs or more.

Morneau led off the second with a double and scored on Rondell
White's single. After a walk to Phil Nevin and a wild pitch by
Wakefield, Bartlett homered. In the next inning, Hunter homered
after Morneau singled. In the ninth, Morneau singled home Michael
Cuddyer, who had doubled.

Boston's only hit through four innings was a single by Kevin
Youkilis. The Red Sox scored in the fifth on singles by Eric Hinske
and Doug Mirabelli and a sacrifice fly by Alex Gonzalez and added
two runs in the sixth on Hinske's run-scoring single and
Mirabelli's RBI double.

Game notes
Youkilis left the game after three innings with a neck
strain and was replaced in left field by rookie David Murphy. ...
The Twins remained the only team Ortiz hasn't homered against this
season. He made his major league debut with Minnesota in 1997. ...
Boston and Minnesota have met just four times with the Twins
winning all the games. ... Minnesota's Luis Castillo stole second
after each of his first two singles and has 23 stolen bases for the
season. ... Hunter left the game in the bottom of the seventh after
fouling a ball off his front leg while batting in the top of the
inning. He said he'll play Wednesday. ... The Red Sox posted their
300th consecutive regular season sellout at Fenway Park with a
crowd of 36,242.