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Twins Rally Past ChiSox

The Minnesota Twins can thank Albert Belle for their third straight win.

No, not that Albert Belle. His dad.

Todd Walker, who credits his high school hitting coach, Albert Belle Sr., for teaching him his sweet, left-handed swing, drove in the winning run with a pinch-hit double in the ninth as the Twins rallied for an 8-7 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.

"Now I can go home and tell him how well he did and tell him what a good influence he has been on my career," Walker said, referring to the elder Belle.

Walker's winning hit came after the Twins had blown a 7-2 lead in the eighth inning, with Robin Ventura tying the game with a two-run homer, his third clutch homer in the last two games.

But after wasting a bases-loaded, one-out chance in the bottom of the eighth, the Twins broke through in the ninth when Matt Lawton hit a one-out single and scored from first on Walker's double to right.

That allowed Walker to wax nostalgic after the game instead of agonizing over another blown opportunity for the Twins. He remembered his days at Airline High School in Bossier City, La., the twin city to the Belles' hometown of Shreveport.

He remembered the elder Belle's outstanding athletic ability and his wonderful sense of humor.

"You think Albert Belle is an athlete, you should have seen his dad," Walker said.

He remembered Albert Jr. coming home and taking batting practice in his Cleveland Indians' attire, on the verge of breaking into the major leagues for good.

"We used to think, `Man, that's awesome,' " said Walker, who went on to break the younger Belle's career RBI record at Louisiana State.

"Back then," Walker said, "it seemed almost unrealistic to think I'd get a hit to beat the team that Albert is on."

That's exactly what happened Friday, even though the Twins would have preferred an easier finish to their fourth win in five games.

The Twins took a 7-2 lead into the eighth after Marty Cordova's two-run homer in the sixth. But the White Sox tied it on Ventura's two-out, two-run homer, which quickly brought to mind his ninth-inning solo homer and 11th-inning two-run winner against the Cardinals on Wednesday.

Minnesota left the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, but Rick Aguilera (3-3) held Chicago scoreless in the top of the ninth to make the winning rally possible.

Lawton singled with one out off Bill Simas (2-1), and Walker, batting for Denny Hocking, lined a double to right and Lawton hustled home just ahead of the relay throw.

The White Sox might have had a chance to get Lawton, but Jeff Abbott didn't field the ball cleanly in the right-field corner and made a low throw to second baseman Craig Snopek. His throw to the plate bounced a couple otimes and handcuffed catcher Chad Kreuter, who dropped the ball as Lawton slid home.

"We didn't execute the way we should have on that play," manager Jerry Manuel said. "The ball came in on a few bounces and that didn't give us much chance to make the tag."

The loss was the fifth in seven games for Chicago, which also got a solo homer from Mike Cameron.

Cordova was 3-for-3 with three RBIs for the Twins, who had 16 hits but also stranded 12 runners. Lawton and Brent Gates also had three hits apiece.

Twins starter Eric Milton allowed just three hits through seven innings before allowing four singles to start the eighth. That made it 7-3 and left the bases loaded and no one out for reliever Mike Trombley with Frank Thomas, Belle and Ventura up.

Trombley got Thomas to hit a sacrifice fly for the first out and struck out Belle, but Greg Swindell came on to give up Ventura's 407-foot drive to right-center field on the first pitch.

Notes: Paul Molitor returned to the Twins' lineup after missing three games because of a sore left shoulder. He went 1-for-4 with a walk in his familiar role as the DH. ... Cordova is hitting .455 (15-for-35) against left-handers. ... The White Sox have the second-worst road winning percentage (.378, 14-for-23) in the AL. ... Chicago rookie Mike Caruso extended his hitting streak to a team-best 12 games with a bunt single in the sixth. He is hitting .392 during the streak.

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

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