MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The Minnesota Twins have been the toast of the town in their shiny new ballpark, playing to a packed house every night that has delighted in watching Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer smack the ball around Target Field.
On Tuesday night against Colorado, the 32nd sellout crowd of the season saw small ball make its debut in the great outdoors.
The Twins dinked and dunked their way Metrodome-style to five runs in the fourth inning and Carl Pavano pitched seven strong innings in a 9-3 victory over the Rockies on Tuesday night.
Mauer and Morneau combined to go 1 for 9 in the game, but light hitters Danny Valencia, Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert picked up the slack, combining to go 5 for 9 with a homer, four walks and three RBIs.
``It's definitely nice,' Valencia said. ``The guys at the top of the order are normally the ones doing all the damage. It's nice to help out.'
Pavano (7-6) struck out five and walked one, going at least seven innings for the 10th time in 13 starts this year.
Aaron Cook (2-4) lasted just 3 1-3 innings for the Rockies, giving up five runs on nine hits with three walks.
For years in the Metrodome, the Twins thrived on pounding the ball into the turf and squeaking it through the holes to start big rallies. That was the case in the fourth inning, when eight straight reached base against Cook, mostly on base hits past diving infielders, to erase a 2-0 deficit.
``I think I had more breaks than their starting pitcher,' Pavano said. ``He did a great job but the balls that got through that inning weren't hit very hard. They just found holes. I think I had a little more luck on my side today.'
Michael Cuddyer, Young and Denard Span all had run-scoring hits and Nick Punto's line drive to center scored two more in the decisive inning. Not exactly pretty, but effective.
``They were balls hit on the ground. They weren't hit hard,' Cook said. ``A ball hits third base, and a baseball gets in between shortstop and third baseman. I can't make them hit it at our guys. That inning they found the holes.'
Tolbert hit his first homer of the season in the eighth, Jason Kubel added a two-run shot and Delmon Young added three hits for the Twins, who bounced back from dropping two of three to the Atlanta Braves at home over the weekend.
Todd Helton homered for the Rockies, snapping a streak of 88 straight plate appearances without a home run. Troy Tulowitzki also hit a homer after missing the previous two games with a strained right groin.
Tulowitzki's homer in the first inning and Carlos Gonzalez's RBI triple in the third gave Colorado, which was 5-1 in interleague play coming into the series, a 2-0 lead.
Paced by the incomparable Ubaldo Jimenez, the Rockies entered the game with a 3.16 ERA in June. They held the powerful Blue Jays to six runs total in a three-game sweep last weekend.
``For three innings, it looked like it had the makings of an Aaron Cook complete game on the road,' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. ``But by the fourth inning the ball went back to the middle of the plate and the ball lacked movement, and they hit it. Period.'
Helton led off the sixth with a solo homer to right field, just his second home run of the season and first since May 18. He was stuck in a bad slump all year before Tracy moved him to the No. 2 spot five games ago. He is 8 for 20 (.400) since then.
``I find it, lose it, find it, lose it,' Helton said. ``It's just a matter of being more consistent and slowing myself down. Bascially getting confidence back and feeling comfortable at the plate.'
Tolbert was hitting .152 when the day began. But Cook walked him twice and he hit a solo homer in the eighth inning off of Rafael Betancourt. Tolbert now has more home runs at Target Field than Mauer, who has yet to hit one at the new ballpark.
``I was like wow,' Tolbert said of his third career home run. ``That normally doesn't happen for me.'
NOTES: Tracy said RHP Huston Street, on the DL all season with a shoulder injury, threw well in a one-inning rehab outing for Triple-A Colorado Springs. He has two more outings scheduled. If all goes well, the Rockies will discuss activating him as early as Sunday. ... Twins 2B Orlando Hudson (left wrist) was eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday. But he is still experiencing pain when swinging left-handed, so the Twins decided to keep him out for a few more days. ... The Twins have hit a double in 27 straight games, the longest streak in the majors.
The Associated Press News Service
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