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Garza wins again, helps Twins keep pace

Sep 24, 2006 - 9:30 PM BALTIMORE (Ticker) -- Matt Garza was fine as long as he wasn't facing Miguel Tejada.

Garza survived two homers by Tejada and won his second straight start as the Minnesota Twins built an early lead and held on for a 6-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

American League batting leader Joe Mauer homered for the Twins (92-63), who took the final two games of the three-game series, remained 1 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the American League Central Division and inched closer to securing the wild card berth.

"We still haven't got ourselves into the playoffs yet, but we are pretty close," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Our guys are pretty excited. We've got to keep playing and plugging away."

Garza (3-5) has begun to show the skills that allowed him to progress from Class A to the majors in less than a season. The rookie righthander gave up three runs, six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings, striking out four.

However, Garza also showed his inexperience as he gave up three homers, two to Tejada, who ended a long power outage. In the sixth, Garza departed after allowing blasts by Tejada and Corey Patterson, making it 4-3.

"The first few inning he was lights out, everything was working - his curveball and fastball," said Mauer, the catcher. "He left a few pitches up and made a few mistakes and they hit them hard. He came out and threw the ball pretty well for us today."

"I felt fine. I was staked to an early lead, so I just went out and attacked the hitters," Garza said. "I left a couple of pitches up and that's what cost me."

Juan Rincon got the final out of the sixth before a 29-minute rain delay.

In the seventh, Dennys Reyes gave up a pair of one-out hits to again bring up Tejada. Sidearmer Pat Neshek came on and struck out the slugger on a 3-2 pitch, with Mauer throwing out a stealing Chris Gomez at third to end the threat.

After Phil Nevin provided some breathing room with a two-run homer off Russ Ortiz in the eighth.

"I can honestly say this is the most fun I have had playing baseball on this level," Nevin said. "I've been around a while and it's my first opportunity to go to the postseason."

Jesse Crain got all three outs in the bottom half and Joe Nathan worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 35th save.

"Our bullpen came out and did another super job of just shutting them down, one after another," Gardenhire said. "They just continue to get the job done."

The Twins pounced on rookie starter Adam Loewen (6-6), who had limited Minnesota to four hits over eight innings in a win August 22. Luis Castillo doubled, Nick Punto sacrificed and Mauer went the other way over the left field fence for his 12th homer.

"I was just trying to get the runner in from third, get something in the air and it went over," Mauer said.

Mauer and Castillo each had three of Minnesota's 13 hits.

Minnesota scored twice more in the third. Mauer opened with an infield hit and was forced at second before singles by Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau plated a run. After Rondell White reached on an error, Nevin lifted a sacrifice fly.

Tejada's first homer in the bottom of the fourth was his 23rd of the season but first in 120 at-bats. When he led off the sixth with another blast, it marked his first multi-homer game of the season.

"I'm not really looking for home runs and today I got two," Tejada said. "I always say I'm not a home run hitter."

Loewen gave up four runs, eight hits and a walk in six innings, striking out eight.

"Early on I didn't think he had his best stuff, but he came on strong after that," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He's going to be fine."

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