Dave St. Peter, president of the Twins, thinks it is about time that the team's general manager, Billy Smith, gets some credit for the additions he made this season: shortstop Orlando Cabrera and pitchers Carl Pavano, Ron Mahay and Jon Rauch.

The team has won 16 of its past 22 games despite the loss of several key players.

After beating Kansas City 5-4 Saturday on Michael Cuddyer's eighth-inning home run, the Twins found themselves tied for the division lead when Detroit lost to the White Sox 5-1. The Twins can make the playoffs even though they are minus key performers such as first baseman Justin Morneau -- who hasn't played during the big winning streak -- along with third baseman Joe Crede and pitchers Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins.

It was like 1991, when Andy MacPhail tried to sign pitcher Mike Boddicker and outfielder Franklin Stubbs. When he failed to land them, he was lucky enough to get two big producers in designated hitter Chili Davis and pitcher Jack Morris.

Smith was after other players earlier this season. Smith tried to get second baseman Freddy Sanchez from Pittsburgh and pitcher Jarrod Washburn from Seattle. But he settled for Cabrera and the three pitchers when the asking price for the others was too high.

While the Twins wouldn't be in any race if they weren't in the Central Division, you have to nominate Ron Gardenhire for a top candidate for Manager of the Year because of the great job he has done after losing that many key players.

Cabrera, Cuddyer, Denard Span and, recently, Delmon Young have helped carry the club. Young has shown some power for a change, hitting a grand slam on Friday and a key three-run double Saturday.

Of course, catcher Joe Mauer, who drove in the first run off Royals ace Zack Greinke, has continued his sensational season, leading the league in hitting and other categories.

What makes it more amazing is that the Twins' victory on Saturday was against Cy Young candidate Greinke, who entered the game with a 16-8 record and a super 2.06 ERA.

Adding to the glamour of the Twins' finish is that these are the final days in the Metrodome, where a crowd of 48,644 watched and cheered. Today's game, of course, is sold out.

U gave game away

Yes, the Gophers handed Saturday's game to the Badgers, losing to Wisconsin for the 13th time in 15 tries.

The Gophers had their chances, and if ever a team played with a lack of discipline, this was the home team on Saturday.

Despite giving up 10 points on turnovers, adding nine penalties for 75 yards, the Gophers were leading the Badgers 13-10 at halftime.

The home team had kicked two field goals deep in Badgers territory, and the Gophers' inability to score touchdowns caught up with them when the last-minute drive failed.

The Badgers, with an offensive line averaging 6-6 and 320 pounds, won the battle on the line of scrimmage in the second half as running back John Clay wound up with 186 yards, all but 25 in the second half.

"Unfortunately, we did some things to hurt us," said coach Tim Brewster. "We had opportunities to score touchdowns in the first half and had to settle for field goals. Against a good football team, you cannot do that. We just didn't do enough. Obviously, they got the running game going in the second half, and we just didn't do a good enough job of slowing them down and stopping the run. But this football team has got character. They fought like crazy to try and go win at the end."

Yes, this Gophers football team can win some games, but not when it turns the ball over, commits hurtful penalties and has the quarterback sacked five times and under pressure all afternoon.

Big day for Vikings D

The Vikings should win Monday night's game against the Packers, because Green Bay has had problems with its offensive line all season.

During the past 10 days, the Packers have worked out six different offensive linemen and their longtime starting left tackle, Chad Clifton, one of the league's best blind-side blockers, has been ruled out for the game. That means converted guard Daryn Colledge will go up against Jared Allen.

Allen, Ray Edwards and Kevin and Pat Williams, who make up the Vikings' starting front four, should have one of the best days of the season against that Packers offensive line.


Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn, who gave up two runs and four hits in seven outstanding innings Saturday against the Royals, is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his past four starts. He has given up five earned runs in 27 1/3 innings with 18 strikeouts and just two home runs. The Twins are 4-0 during this period when he pitched.

Cuddyer, who hit the winning home run, is now hitting .342 since he took over at first base for Morneau. He has a .671 slugging percentage while playing first base and the Twins are 15-4. ... Morneau, who was playing with a fractured bone in his back, was hitting only .100 in his final 20 games -- 7-for-70 -- with no multihit games.

Young hit .309 in September, his second-best overall month with the Twins. His best was in July, when he hit .313. He hit .241 in April, .236 in May, .284 in June ,262 in August. If you want to count the last two days in October, Young is hitting .625 with one home run and five RBI.

Reliever Joe Nathan, who got his 47th save of the season Saturday, has a great 1.88 ERA since joining the Twins, second in the major leagues to Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox in that span. Hitters are batting .188 against Nathan since he joined the Twins, first in the majors during that period. The Twins are 354-57 all-time when Nathan pitches in a game.

Kevin McHale, the former Timberwolves president, has been hired by the Dallas Mavericks to work with big men for a period. ... Kevin Sumlin, the former Gophers assistant whose wife, Charlene, is from the area, is the head football coach at Houston, which has defeated top-rated Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

Ex-Gopher Vincent Grier is working out with Flip Saunders and the Washington Wizards with a chance to make the team. ... Wisconsin will face Michigan in an outdoor college hockey game at Camp Randall Feb. 6, according to Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez. Alvarez said attendance of 40,000 will be needed for the school to break even in the promotion.

The Vikings have 1,500 tickets left for the next home game with Baltimore on Oct. 18.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com