BOSTON (AP) – Justin Morneau had a career-high five hits, Jason Bartlett and Torii Hunter homered and the streaking Minnesota Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 7-3 Tuesday night to move closer to a playoff berth.

The Twins got their ninth win in 11 games with solid pitching from Matt Garza (2-5). They began the night 11/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central and 41/2 ahead of Chicago in the wild-card race. The Tigers played at the White Sox later Tuesday.

The Red Sox cut a 6-0 deficit in half but got no help from David Ortiz, who went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and remained one homer short of the Red Sox record of 50, set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938.

Garza allowed just one hit in the first four innings. He left with two outs in the sixth and Minnesota leading 6-2. Dennys Reyes pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings while a misty rain grew heavier and has allowed just one earned run in 35 appearances since the All-Star break.

Joe Nathan pitched the ninth as the Twins improved to 76-0 when leading after eight innings. Another mark of their solid pitching is their 27-1 record in their last 28 games when they score four runs or more.

Boston’s magic number for elimination in the AL East was cut to two, and its magic number for elimination from the wild-card berth dropped to four.

Morneau entered the game in an 0-for-11 slump but he went 5-for-5 to raise his batting average to .326, hitting two doubles and three singles while scoring twice and driving in the Twins’ last run.

Bartlett hit his second homer of the season, a three-run shot in the four-run second inning off Tim Wakefield (7-10). Hunter added a two-run shot that made it 6-0 in the third.

Wakefield lasted just 3 1-3 innings in his second start since spending nearly two months on the disabled list with a stress fracture of the rib cage. It was only the fourth time in 152 starts at Fenway Park that he didn’t pitch more than 3 1-3 innings.

The Twins teed off on Wakefield in the second when Morneau led off with a double and scored on Rondell White’s single. After a walk to Phil Nevin and a wild pitch by Wakefield, Bartlett homered to left field.

In the next inning, Hunter hit his 27th homer after Morneau singled. In the ninth, Morneau singled home Michael Cuddyer, who had doubled.

Boston’s only hit through four innings was a single by Kevin Youkilis. The Red Sox scored a run in the fifth on singles by Eric Hinske and Doug Mirabelli and a sacrifice fly by Alex Gonzalez and added two in the sixth on Hinske’s run-scoring single and Mirabelli’s RBI double.

Notes: Youkilis left the game after three innings with a neck strain and was replaced in left field by rookie David Murphy. … The Twins remained the only team Ortiz hasn’t homered against this season. He made his major league debut with Minnesota in 1997. … Boston and Minnesota have met just four times with the Twins winning all the games. … Minnesota’s Luis Castillo stole second after each of his first two singles and has 23 stolen bases for the season. … Hunter left the game in the bottom of the seventh after fouling a ball off his front leg while batting in the top of the inning. … The Red Sox posted their 300th consecutive regular season sellout at Fenway Park with a crowd of 36,242.

AP-ES-09-19-06 2219EDT


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