Twins walk off with first-place tie

Twins walk off with first-place tie

MINNEAPOLIS -- The crowd inside the Metrodome roared for a veteran before the first pitch on Thursday. It was even louder after the last pitch.

Jason Bartlett's single with one out in the 10th inning scored Justin Morneau, and the Twins rallied to beat the Royals, 2-1.

With three games left in the regular season, the Twins are tied with Detroit atop the American League Central, but the Tigers, who lost, 8-6, to Toronto, hold the tiebreaker.

"With three games to go, I don't think too many people thought we'd be there, but we're even up with the Tigers, and that's a pretty good feeling in itself," said manager Ron Gardenhire. Minnesota was 11 1/2 games out of first place on June 8, but has gone 69-31 since then.

Minnesota welcomes archrival Chicago to the nearly sold-out Metrodome for its final series and the Royals travel to Motown.

"It's a huge series for us and they know it's a huge series for us. With the rivalry that we have, they're not going to roll over and let us have it," said Michael Cuddyer, who went 2-for-4. "Hopefully, Kansas City can go into Detroit and help us out."

Morneau led off the 10th inning with a single off Scott Dohmann (2-4). After Torii Hunter flied out, Rondell White broke his bat and hit a weak grounder up the middle. As the ball rolled towards second base it went off the glove of shortstop Angel Sanchez and into short right field, allowing Morneau to reach third base. After an intentional walk to Jason Tyner, Bartlett singled to deep center to cap Minnesota's 51st come-from-behind win this year.

Joe Nathan (7-0) pitched a scoreless 10th inning for the win.

Minnesota was one out away from remaining a game behind Detroit, but with most of the 26,654 in attendance on their feet, Joe Mauer barely homered over the left-center-field fence off Joe Nelson to force extra innings.

"I was just trying to get on and extend the inning. I knew he wasn't going to give me very much on the inner part of the plate, so I just split it in half and looked for something outside and I got a fastball there," said Mauer, who went 1-for-4 and saw his average dip to a league-best .349. "It went over the fence. It doesn't matter how far it went."

Minnesota starter Brad Radke said when Mauer hit the home run it felt like the seventh game of the World Series.

The game was extra-special for Radke, who made a successful return to the mound for Minnesota, and likely earned himself a postseason start.

"Game 3 looks good for me right now," he said.

Johan Santana and Boof Bonser are scheduled to start the first two games next week, and Radke, Carlos Silva or Matt Garza are expected to fill the other two slots.

"I'm pretty excited because we've been trying to figure out our rotation as we go into the playoffs, and right now it feels pretty good," Gardenhire said.

Out since Aug. 25 because of a stress fracture in his right shoulder socket, Radke took the mound to a standing ovation. He rewarded the fans by allowing an unearned run and a season-low three hits in five innings, striking out one and walking two. He threw 57 pitches before being relieved by Pat Neshek to start the sixth inning.

"I'm amazed at what happened out there," said Radke, who wanted to go deeper into the game, but was shut down by Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson. "I know I'm going to feel like crap tomorrow and probably the next day, but I'll take it."

In what could be the final regular-season start in his 12-year career, Radke faced the minimum number of batters in four of his five innings, helped by three double plays behind him. The right-hander has indicated he will retire after the season.

The Royals had a great chance to extend their lead in the eighth inning, loading the bases with nobody out against Juan Rincon. But Mitch Maier popped up to Rincon and John Buck hit into a double play to end the threat.

"That was the momentum switch right there," Mauer said. "There were a lot of great stories tonight: Radke's pitching, Bartlett getting the game-winning hit and Rincon getting out of that inning."

Oh yeah, and his home run.

Mike Cook is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.