Twins’ Jones packs punch

Ninth-inning homer lifts Minnesota past Baltimore

Minnesota's Jacque Jones watches his ninth-inning home run against Baltimore's Jason Grimsley. The blast gave the Twins a 3-2 victory Wednesday in Minneapolils.

? 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 have 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, 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 victory.

“When you have a chance to put them away, you have to put them away,” the Orioles’ Brian Roberts said. “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 intentionally was 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 RBIs 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, a former Royal who had major elbow surgery in 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 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.

Blue Jays 9, Mariners 4

Toronto – Frank Catalanotto and Shea Hillenbrand homered to highlight a five-run fifth, and Toronto beat Seattle. Rookie Aaron Hill also homered for the Blue Jays, who have won just three of nine since Roy Halladay broke a bone in his lower left leg.

Gustavo Chacin (9-5) won his third straight start, allowing one run and six hits in six innings. The 25-year-old left-hander retired the first 11 batters. He struck out one and walked one.

Richie Sexson and Scott Spiezio hit consecutive homers for the Mariners.

Seattle starter Ryan Franklin (5-11) allowed 12 hits and a career-high eight earned runs in 51â3 innings. The benches almost cleared in fourth after Franklin jawed with Orlando Hudson, who Franklin thought was stealing signs from second base.

Yankees 8, Rangers 4

Arlington, Texas – Jason Giambi and Tino Martinez homered twice, and New York matched its season high with six in a victory over Texas. Giambi and Jorge Posada put the Yankees ahead to stay with consecutive homers in the second off Joaquin Benoit (1-1), who struck out the first four batters he faced and got a flyball out before then.

Benoit then walked a batter before retiring eight more in a row until Martinez’s one-out homer in the fifth. Bubba Crosby and Derek Jeter had consecutive singles before Robinson Cano’s three-run homer made it 6-1.

Tigers 8, White Sox 6

Chicago – Nate Robertson pitched Detroit to a series win against the team with the best record in the major leagues. Robertson scattered four hits over seven innings, and Chris Shelton and Omar Infante homered to lead the Tigers over Chicago.

In a game interrupted by rain for 1 hour, 11 minutes in the fourth inning, Detroit stopped Freddy Garcia’s six-game winning streak, taking two of three in the series and winning for the ninth time in 13 games.

Athletics 3, Angels 0

Anaheim, Calif. – Barry Zito combined with two relievers on a seven-hitter to win his fifth straight start, Mark Ellis and Mark Kotsay homered, and Oakland defeated Los Angeles. Oakland, a major-league-best 32-13 since May 29, took two of three from the Angels to climb within 61â2 games of the defending division champs. The Athletics haven’t been this close to first place since May 14, when they were six games out.

Red Sox 9, Devil Rays 4

Boston – Boston gave David Wells run support again, scoring five times before making an out and coasting past Tampa Bay. One start after staking Wells to a 17-1 lead, the Red Sox scored six in the first inning and led 9-2 when he left after seven.