Not much in clutch for Twins

The lack of a crucial hit with runners on base wasted a fine effort by Johan Santana and illustrated why the Tigers are in first place.

All the blows for the Twins on Wednesday night at the Metrodome were the wrong ones.

• They saw their Cy Young-winning lefthander, Johan Santana, wasn't invincible.

• Their Gold Glove-winning center fielder, Torii Hunter, was helped off because of a strained left hamstring.

• Worst of all, their playoff hopes seemed unrealistic after losing 3-2 to Detroit.

The Tigers have won the first two games of this crucial series, putting the Twins eight games back in the AL Central Division. Tigers lefthander Andrew Miller beat Santana, who dropped to 41-5 after the All-Star break since 2003. Todd Jones got his second save in two days.

The blows should have taken place on the field, but the Twins' unreliable offense was 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and twice left the bases loaded.

"Big hits. That's what it boiled down to," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Needed it. Didn't get it."

They'll have to dig deeper to pull out a victory against Tigers righthander Jeremy Bonderman, who is 10-1 and beat the Twins 1-0 earlier this month.

They'll definitely have to find a way to score runs after losing 1-0 on Tuesday and 3-2 on Wednesday. Wednesday's loss came at the expense of a solid effort by Santana, who held Detroit to three runs over eight innings.

Though the Twins couldn't find the big hit, Detroit looked like a clutch-hitting, playoff-ready team. Magglio Ordonez, who entered the game as the AL's leading hitter, socked a two-run double off Santana in the fourth on a pitch up and out of the strike zone and followed it with a solo homer in the sixth.

"It seemed like every time, their pitchers found the right pitch to get out of jams," said Santana (11-7). "You make a mistake, and they score runs."

Miller, who gave up six runs in five innings against the Twins at Comerica Park earlier this month, held the Twins to one run over five innings Wednesday. The Twins were shut out for 25 consecutive innings by the Tigers before scoring in the fifth when Justin Morneau was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Miller avoided more damage in that inning by striking out Jason Kubel. Miller pounded his fist in his glove as he walked off the field.

Gardenhire and Detroit manager Jim Leyland matched moves during an intense seventh inning.

Joe Mauer led off with a bunt single to third base off Bobby Seay, followed by a single to left by Michael Cuddyer. Morneau popped out to short for the first out. Kubel was up next, but Gardenhire looked down his bench and called on Mike Redmond to pinch hit.

Seay got ahead 1-2 in the count, but Leyland surprisingly popped out of his dugout and brought in righthander Chad Durbin.

Durbin hit Redmond, loading the bases. But the next two at-bats exemplified the Twins' night: Jeff Cirillo fouled out to the catcher, and Lew Ford flied out to center to end the inning.

"It was an unorthodox move," Leyland said, "but I'm glad I made it."

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    Up next: 12:10 p.m. today vs. Detroit • Metrodome • FSN, 1500-AM

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