Inside Pitch- Lineup Heating Up

In this edition of Twins' Inside Pitch, the middle of the lineup is beginning to wake up, Rondell White was actually intentionally walked, Torii Hunter is stroking the ball, and Michael Cuddyer seems to have settled in as the team's right fielder. All that and more.

Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer and Rondell White are three reasons the Twins take optimism out of their just-concluded 4-3 homestand as they try to improve the second-worst road record in the league over the next three days against AL West-leading Texas.

Hunter broke out of a slump almost as soon as the team got home, hitting .440 with three doubles, two homers and seven RBIs during the seven games, all since moving to the cleanup spot Monday.

"It's not the four hole," he repeated Sunday after the Twins' 4-2 victory over Detroit. "It's me. They pitch me the same whether I'm cleanup or batting fifth. I'm just feeling better up there."

Cuddyer, back in right field in place of Lew Ford because he's been hot, hit .421 during the homestand, including a 2-for-3 Sunday.

And White, who spent the first month of the season mired in the deepest slump on the team, has a five-game hitting streak and was actually -- believe it or not -- walked intentionally by the Tigers to load the bases for Tony Batista in the fifth inning Sunday.

"I told the catcher, 'I'm hitting .159. Come on,'" White said. "He said, '(Detroit manager Jim) Leyland figured you're due, so we're putting you on.' They know I'm looking more like myself instead of swinging at a lot of bad pitches. They know I'm feeling good."

The lack of production in the middle of the order has been a constant theme of the early going for the Twins, making the new life shown by Hunter, Cuddyer and White a boost for team confidence if not a difference-maker in the win-loss column.

"We've got some guys starting to swing better," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's good to see."

REPLAY: Johan Santana (3-3) took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a 4-2 victory Sunday before Detroit's Pudge Rodriguez fouled off three 0-2 pitches and drove a ball through the left side of the infield for the Tigers' first hit. Magglio Ordonez followed with a home run for the only damage off Twins pitching Sunday, as Minnesota won two of three from Detroit -- just one week after the Tigers completed a 33-1, three-game sweep of the Twins in Detroit.

Santana, the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2004, struck out 11 and walked only one, cruising to his third straight victory. After going 0-2 with a 5.71 ERA in his first three starts, he's 3-1, 2.48 in his past four.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • Was it his top catch? CF Torii Hunter, the five-time Gold Glove winner, said he rates his running, lunging, tumbling catch of Detroit RF Magglio Ordonez's deep drive to the left-center gap in the fifth inning Sunday among his top three career catches, if not at the top. Part of the difficulty was he didn't see the ball off the bat. He said he broke for the spot he figured the ball was headed and picked it up in flight as he ran. "It's the kind of catch you expect of him, but I don't know if you can really expect anybody to make that catch," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

  • RF Michael Cuddyer will remain the Twins' starting right fielder indefinitely, manager Ron Gardenhire said -- at least as long as he keeps playing as well as he has of late. Cuddyer, who replaced OF Lew Ford in right last week, has an eight-game hitting streak, spread over the past two weeks, during which he's batting .419 (13 for 31) with five doubles, a home run and six RBIs.

  • C Joe Mauer got a rare day start after a night game Sunday as the Twins tried to win an important series clincher against Detroit and close out a winning homestand. Manager Ron Gardenhire said the relatively early Saturday night game and decision to skip batting practice Sunday made it easier to bring Mauer back on a day the team's No. 3 hitter normally would rest.

  • DH Rondell White (.157) on a five-game hitting streak in which he hasn't had more than one hit a game: "I'll take one hit a day right now. It's better than going home with none. ... I feel like I'm hitting .300 in my mind. Hopefully, if I feel that way, it'll come back."

  • Sunday's game marked only the third time this season the Twins didn't trail in a game -- the first time against an opponent other than the Royals.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Shutout losses for the Twins in their first 28 games this season. They didn't get shut out for the first time in 2005 until their 31st game.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It can't get any worse." -- DH Rondell White after the Twins finished off a 9-15 April with their worst three-game series (33-1 deficit in sweep at Detroit) in 25 years.


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