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Minnesota Halts Pirates' Win Streak

It was getaway day, and Minnesota had every reason to get out of Pittsburgh in a hurry. The Pirates and Jason Schmidt were riding seven-game winning streaks, and Twins starter Bob Tewksbury had lost four in a row.

But trying to figure out these two teams has been difficult all season, so perhaps Minnesota's 3-2 victory Sunday on Matt Lawton's pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh inning wasn't the surprise it appeared to be.

"You can fall into a pattern if you're winning close games, you expect to win and if you're losing them, you're waiting for bad things to happen," the Twins' Pat Meares said. "It gets disheartening when you can't find a way to win them."

For a change, the Twins did.

The Pirates, trying to extend their longest winning streak since an 11-game run in September 1996, led 2-1 until Brent Gates' RBI single following Orlando Merced's pinch-hit double in the sixth and Lawton's RBI hit in the seventh.

Schmidt (8-2) hadn't lost in two months a 3-1 defeat to Atlanta on April 7 until giving up three runs, two earned, and seven hits in seven innings.

"Yeah, I lost the winning streak, and it was a tough one to take," said Schmidt, clearly agitated at losing the lead, the game and his streak. "I'm not happy."

Minnesota was in danger of being swept in the three-game interleague series until the seventh. Todd Walker singled and moved to third as shortstop Kevin Polcovich misplayed Javier Valentin's apparent double-play grounder, and Lawton singled with two out.

Just before Lawton hit a fastball into center field, catcher Jason Kendall and Schmidt conferred on the mound.

"We wanted to make sure we were on the same page," Schmidt said. "But I left a fastball up to him, and they probably won the game because I did. I didn't make the pitch I probably should have made, and the next time I'll know better."

Twins manager Tom Kelly didn't detect any fallout from Pittsburgh's 4-3, 12-inning victory the night before.

"Most players forget about the game approximately 10 minutes after it ends," he said. "That's the trend now. I don't think players dwell on what happened yesterday, not any more."

The Twins' Marty Cordova was 3-for-4 and threw out Jason Kendall at third as he attempted to move up on Kevin Young's fly ball in the sixth. Kendall had doubled off Dan Serafini (2-0), who won in his first relief appearance of the season.

Serafini replaced Tewksbury, who came off the disabled list (strained right shoulder) to give up two runs over five innings in his first start since May 22.

"We definitely hated losing, especially the way we were rolling along, but what we have to do this time is get right back to doing what we were doing before," the Pirates' Kevi Young said.

Just when the Pirates appear to be making a move in the NL Central, they seem to give away a game or two that causes them to fall back. The Twins, second in the AL Central but 10 ½ games off Cleveland's pace, have been similar.

"Most of our losses have been tough ones, one-run or two-run games. Today, we got one," Lawton said.

The Twins bullpen helped out with four scoreless innings. Mike Trombley replaced Serafini to get two batters, Greg Swindell retired four in a row and Rick Aguilera pitched the ninth for his 11th save.

Tony Womack had a run-scoring single in the Pirates' fifth. He also tripled and scored in the first on Kendall's groundout following Cordova's RBI double in the top of the inning.

Notes: Lawton is 2-for-2 as a pinch-hitter. ... Twins center fielder Otis Nixon went to the base of the wall in left-center to make an over-the-head catch of pinch-hitter Doug Strange's drive in the seventh. ... Meares, the Twins shortstop, made two outstanding defensive plays to take away hits, one against Guillen and the other on Aramis Ramirez's game-ending popup into short left field. ... Pirates right fielder Jose Guillen easily threw out Gates at the plate on Cordova's single in the sixth. ... The Pirates play 15 of their next 20 on the road, where they are 8-17. ... Schmidt failed to become the first Pirates starter since Neal Heaton in 1990 to start a season 9-1. The best start in team history: ElRoy Face's 18-1 in 1959. ... Before Sunday, Pirates pitchers had yielded one earned run in 37 innings. ... Minnesota optioned infielder Jon Shave to Triple-A Salt Lake.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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