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Royals survive shaky bullpen work for 7-6 victory over Florida

MIAMI -- It’s one down and 10 to go for the Royals on their longest road trip of the season. And so far, so good.

The Royals feasted on some sloppy Florida defense Friday night and held on for a 7-6 victory at Dolphin Stadium. The Marlins, officially, were tagged with just one error -- and it was costly -- but, oh, there were some could-haves/should-haves.

All that matters, of course, is the Royals won again. That makes five in a row.

Royals starter Brett Tomko, 2-4, got the victory after producing his second quality start in three outings. Tomko limited Florida to two runs and five hits in six innings and had thrown just 78 pitches when manager Trey Hillman went to the bullpen.

Usually that works fine.

Not this time.

Leo Nuñez worked a scoreless seventh before it got interesting.

Usually-reliable Ramon Ramirez inherited a 6-2 lead but exited after two one-out walks in the eighth. Jimmy Gobble retired Luis Gonzalez on a fly to left but then threw a wild pitch and surrendered a two-run double to Wes Helms.

Ron Mahay got the final out to keep the score at 6-4.

The Royals added a soft run in the ninth on an RBI single by Alex Gordon through Helms at first. That meant Joakim Soria had a three-run lead when he entered in the Florida ninth.

He needed it after yielding a two-run homer to Jeremy Hermida. Those were the first runs surrendered all year by Soria.

But Soria got the final two outs, on strikeouts, for his 11th save in 11 opportunities.

The Royals improved 20-21 and have their first five-game winning streak since last June 24-29. They had plenty of offense; all of it needed.

José Guillen continued his recent surge with three more hits, including a two-run single that opened the scoring in the first inning. Miguel Olivo marked his return to Dolphin Stadium with two hits, including a booming two-run homer in the eight.

Olivo spent the last two seasons with the Marlins and has hit 19 of his 66 career homers in this park. This was his first, however, as an opponent.

The Marlins lost their fourth straight and fell to 23-18.

Florida starter Andrew Miller, acquired in the off-season megadeal with Detroit, was the consensus No. 1 prospect the Royals bypassed in 2006 in order to select Luke Hochevar with the first overall pick.

Miller, 3-3, worked just five innings and needed 102 pitches to do so. He gave up four runs and five hits, but just two of the runs were earned. He also struck out six and walked three.

The Royals staked Tomko to a 2-0 lead before he threw a pitch. Mark Grudzielanek worked a one-out walk in the first and went to third on Gordon’s double. Both runners scored on Guillen’s single through the right side.

Florida halved the lead in the second on Dan Uggla’s one-out homer over the left-field scoreboard. The blast, estimated at 431 feet, was his 13th of the season.

Sloppy defense helped the Royals extend their lead to 4-1 in the fourth.

Guillen led off with a double and went to third on Billy Butler’s grounder to second. Olivo legged out a single on a chopper in front of the plate -- aided by Helms not having a foot on the base to receive Miller’s throw.

It didn’t matter, really, because Olivo appeared to beat the throw. It might have been a harbinger, though.

Miller struck out Mark Teahen before loading the bases with an intentional walk to Tony Peña in order to get to Tomko. Miller got Tomko to hit a routine chopper to shortstop Hanley Ramirez, whose six-year extension for $70 million is expected to be confirmed today at a news conference.

Ramirez bungled the play. First, he looked toward second, and Uggla was nowhere near the base for the force. Ramirez then arm-whipped the ball toward first, and it bounced up the line. Helms couldn’t make a clean pickup. Tomko was safe, and Guillen scored.

Joey Gathright followed with a walk that produced the fourth run.

The Marlins got one back in their fourth on doubles by Uggla and Matt Treanor, but Tomko allowed nothing more in his six innings and handed a 4-2 lead to Nuñez in the Florida seventh.

Olivo’s homer, a 423-foot bomb, boosted the lead to 6-2. It came against reliever Justin Miller after Butler’s one-out double in the eighth.

To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, call (816) 234-4352 or send email to bdutton@kcstar.com.

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