MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins are starting strong — and not only in the standings.
Denard Span has kept up his patience at the top of the lineup, Orlando Hudson has been a tough out behind him, and the Twins are often striking first. So far, it's been a winning formula.
Span was the catalyst with three singles and a walk, and the Twins beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4 Wednesday for their first sweep in nine series this season.
Span has 20 walks, and the addition of Hudson has clearly bolstered this robust batting order.
“If I come up and get an out or whatever, I know that he's going to come up behind me and have a good at-bat or find a way to get on,” Span said. “It starts with us two setting the tone.”
Span scored on Justin Morneau's double in the first inning against sputtering Tigers starter Rick Porcello. After taking a 2-0 lead, the Twins (19-9) became the first major league team to score at least two runs in the first inning of six straight games since the 1971 New York Yankees did so seven consecutive times.
Twins starter Kevin Slowey (4-2) surrendered seven hits and three home runs in 52/3 innings, but they were all solo shots — two by Miguel Cabrera — and struggling right-hander Jesse Crain gave the Twins a solid relief appearance by getting four outs in a row.
Alex Avila homered twice for the Tigers starting the ninth against Jon Rauch with a drive down the right-field line. But Rauch retired the next three batters for his eighth save in nine tries.
The Twins have lost only one series, in Detroit last week, but they led the Tigers by only a half-game in the AL Central when this three-game set began.
Porcello (2-3) tied his career high with four walks, allowing five hits and five runs in 51/3 innings. After a promising rookie year, the right-hander has completed six innings only once in six starts and given up five or more runs in four straight appearances.
And again, one of baseball's sloppiest defensive teams failed to provide support.
“We've got some basic fundamentals that we need to work on, and we will work on,” manager Jim Leyland said.