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Royals avoid sweep with 3-2 victory over Twins in 10 innings

MINNEAPOLIS | Just when the Royals look dead in the water, they do this. They stare down Minnesota’s top two arms, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan; they put together a tight, fairly clean game, and they come away with a 3-2 victory against the soft underbelly of the Twins’ bullpen.

David DeJesus delivered an RBI single in the 10th inning Thursday afternoon that provided the winning margin and enabled the Royals to avoid a three-game sweep at the Metrodome.

“It shows something about Ducky and our pen,” DeJesus said. “If we can keep them in the game, they can keep us in it also.”

Here was proof after opening the series with two dreary losses.

Royals starter Brandon Duckworth worked through a shaky first two innings and pitched into the sixth. He allowed two runs and seven hits in five-plus before handing a 2-2 tie game to the bullpen.

A reliever relay of Ron Mahay, John Bale, Ramon Ramirez and Joakim Soria then permitted just one hit over five shutout innings. The Twins blinked first.

“What can I say about the bullpen coming in?” Duckworth asked before answering. “They did an unbelievable job.”

Ramirez, 3-2, got the victory when the Mexicutioner breezed through a one-two-three 10th inning for his 36th save. But the game ball — if they gave them in baseball — belonged to Bale for his lockdown escape in the eighth inning.

Disaster loomed after left fielder Esteban German dropped Joe Mauer’s leadoff fly for a two-base error. It was the sort of crucial-point breakdown that has so often killed the Royals.

“I just missed it,” German said. “Yes, it’s tough to play the outfield in this ballpark (because of the dome’s white roof), but I’m not making excuses. I just missed it.”

No matter. Bale retired the next two hitters on grounders before Mike Redmond ended the threat with a fly to center. The game remained tied.

The Royals avoided a three-game sweep for the 10th time this season by winning the final game of the series. Four of those salvage victories have come in their five series against the Twins.

The loss dropped Minnesota, temporarily, to 1½ games behind first-place Chicago in the American League Central Division. The White Sox played Thursday night against Toronto.

“We didn’t score enough runs today,” Redmond said. “That’s the bottom line. Our pitching was great.”

The Royals showed some spunk in erasing two early one-run deficits against Liriano.

German had an RBI double in the second, and José Guillen had one in the third. Then nothing.

Liriano retired 15 in a row before DeJesus sliced a one-out single in the eighth.

“I felt Liriano, from the third inning on, was as good as I’ve ever seen him,” manager Trey Hillman said. “I hadn’t seen the power that he had to his pitches before the surgery, but that changeup was nasty, and he was cutting the ball in and locating his fastball.”

Nathan also looked every bit of an All-Star closer in getting two strikeouts in a one-two-three ninth inning, but then — finally — the Royals stirred in the 10th against Matt Guerrier.

Successive one-out singles by Mark Teahen and Alberto Callaspo put runners at first and third. Dennys Reyes replaced Guerrier, 6-8, to set up a lefty-lefty matchup against DeJesus.

“I wanted to be aggressive with him,” DeJesus said, “but I wanted the ball up and over the plate. As he gets later in the count, he gets tougher, and it’s tougher to lay off that slider down.”

The first pitch was a slider up, and DeJesus pulled it past first baseman Justin Morneau for an RBI single. Pinch-runner Jason Smith stopped at second.

Jesse Crain replaced Reyes and retired Mike Aviles and Guillen, but one run was enough. For one day, a rare one for the Royals at the Metrodome, they had enough of everything.

“It was a pretty fundamentally sound game for us,” Hillman agreed. “We had the error, but we overcame it. We got a couple of big hits at the right time, and I was really pleased with our bullpen.”

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