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Twins close in on title; Tigers close in on infamy

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Considering the circumstances, Eric Milton
was in no position to take a team lightly, even the lowly Detroit
Tigers.

"It doesn't matter how many losses they have," Milton said.
"I didn't have a win this year coming into this game."

Milton changed that by winning a regular-season game for the
first time in more than a year and the AL Central-leading Minnesota
Twins posted their seventh straight victory, beating the Tigers 6-2
Friday night.

The Twins cut their magic number to six over Chicago. The White
Sox beat Kansas City and stayed 3{ games behind.

Detroit lost its seventh in a row. The Tigers (38-115) need at
least five wins in their last nine games to avoid matching the
modern era record of 120 losses by the 1962 New York Mets.

Milton (1-0), making his second start of the year after missing
five months with a knee injury, was dominant in earning his first
regular-season win since Aug. 1, 2002.

He gave up just two hits and walked none in seven shutout
innings. Last year, he beat Oakland in Game 4 in the first round of
the playoffs.

Friday night, he'd only thrown 77 pitches through seven innings,
but the Twins resisted the temptation to let him continue.

"I could have just kept letting him go out there, but my
pitching coach has a little more sense than I do," Twins manager
Ron Gardenhire said. "He looks like he's in complete command out
there. It looks effortless. It doesn't even look like he's sweating
out there."

Milton has pitched 12 innings without a walk since his return.

"What's fun is watching Milty now, he's pitching," Twins
pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "In the past when he was
(throwing) 93-94-95 (mph), he'd sometimes turn into a thrower, but
you watch him now and he's locating, changing speeds -- he's a
complete pitcher."

Rookie Jeremy Bonderman (6-19) was tagged for 10 hits and five
runs in 3 1-3 innings. He lost in his first start since being
pulled from the rotation after a loss on Aug. 28.

With one more defeat, Bonderman would join Mike Maroth as the
first teammates to lose 20 games in a season since Stan Bahnsen and
Wilbur Wood with the 1973 Chicago White Sox.

"I don't want to come out (of the rotation)," Bonderman said.
"I don't care what happens, I just want to play."

Milton left the game with a 5-0 lead, but the Tigers broke
through for two runs in the eighth off reliever Jesse Orosco.

Detroit loaded the bases with two outs before J.C. Romero
retired Dmitri Young on a line drive to center to end the inning.

A.J. Pierzynski opened the bottom of the eighth with a home run,
his fourth hit of the night, to put Minnesota ahead 6-2, and Grant
Balfour pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

The Twins scored single runs in the second and third innings
before chasing Bonderman in a three-run fourth.

Cristian Guzman and Shannon Stewart had consecutive RBI singles,
and Doug Mientkiewicz walked with the bases loaded to put the Twins
ahead 5-0.

After that, it was up to Milton, who was told in spring training
he shouldn't expect to pitch again this year following his March
knee surgery. But five months of sweat and patience have culminated
in a successful return, much to the relief of his teammates.

The Twins' biggest pitching concern now appears to be which of
their streaking starters to leave out of the rotation if they reach
the playoffs. Gardenhire refused to speculate on the postseason
with the division still undecided, but his counterpart wasn't
terribly sympathetic to his plight.

"I'm sure Gardy's feeling pretty good about that," Tigers
manager Alan Trammell said. "It's a good option to have. To me,
that would be a nice problem to have."

Game notes
The Tigers turned three double plays and lead the majors
with 180 this season. ... Bonderman leads the staff with 106
strikeouts, and could become just the sixth Detroit rookie -- and
first since Felipe Lira in 1995 -- to lead the team in strikeouts.