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Royals suffer fourth straight loss

4/17/2004

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins are putting the depth
they've got in the organization to great use, with nearly half
their lineup hurt.

The Kansas City Royals could use some first aid for their
pitching staff.

Lew Ford went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a clutch RBI
triple, leading the Twins to a 9-7 victory Friday night and sending
the Royals to their fourth straight loss.

"We knew we were a little beat up," Minnesota manager Ron
Gardenhire said, "but that doesn't mean anything because we've got
some guys that can play."

Carlos Beltran's three-run homer tied it at 7 in the seventh,
but reliever Jason Grimsley gave up an RBI single to Jacque Jones
in the bottom of the inning before Ford drove in Jones with a
triple. Jaime Cerda (0-1) was charged with the first run.

"Everybody contributed," Jones said. "We're not a one-man
show."

Kansas City isn't, either. Juan Gonzalez went 4-for-4 with two
homers and Mike Sweeney also connected, giving the Royals 14 home
runs in their last four games (all losses) to tie a club record for
that span.

It's the pitching that's the problem, though.

Kansas City hasn't had a starting pitcher get a win after 10
games, the bullpen has blown the last three and the rotation's ERA
is 7.54.

"Sooner or later, we're going to change this thing around,"
said manager Tony Pena, who spoke to his team with the clubhouse
door closed after the game. "We're going to keep sending them out
to pitch."

Juan Rincon (2-0) earned the victory for the Twins despite
giving up Beltran's homer, and Joe Nathan got two outs for his
second save.

"A lot of guys have been stepping up since the injuries," said
Ford, who is batting .409 in 22 at-bats since being called up to
replace Torii Hunter in center field.

Hunter, first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, designated hitter
Matthew LeCroy and catcher Joe Mauer are all out, but the lineup
has remained productive and this night was no exception.

Taking advantage of three Royals errors, the Twins scored twice
in the second, twice in the third and three times in the fourth to
take a 7-2 lead.

Shannon Stewart scored twice and hit an RBI single. Luis Rivas
went 2-for-5 with two RBI, and Michael Cuddyer also drove in a run
with a single.

"That's been our M.O. as a team," Jones said. "To battle, to
overcome adversity."

Beltran's big hit got starter Jimmy Gobble off the hook, but the
left-hander didn't pitch well enough to deserve it. He gave up
seven hits and seven runs (five earned) in five innings while
striking out two. Two of the four batters Gobble walked wound up
scoring, and a wild pitch gave the Twins another run.

"I started pressing a little bit too much, trying to be too
fine," Gobble said. "Not pitching my game."

Minnesota starter Johan Santana was on the way to his first
victory in three starts, but the Royals muscled him off the mound.

With one on in the sixth, Gonzalez sent Santana's first pitch
into the left-field seats to cut the Twins' lead to 7-4.

Santana, who gave up six hits and a walk while striking out six
in 6 1-3 innings, left two runners on for Rincon -- who got one out
before Beltran's shot off the facade of the upper deck in right
tied it.

"I was trying to throw the ball over the plate," Santana said.
"Sometimes you make a couple mistakes, and the ball ends up out of
the park and there's nothing you can do about it."

Gonzalez's streak is giving the Royals at least something to be
encouraged about. He has 432 career home runs, moving past Cal
Ripken Jr. into 30th place on baseball's career list, and three
homers in his last two games after going 32 at-bats without one.

"We were waiting for this moment," Pena said. "Everybody
knows the type of hitter he is."

Game notes
This is the latest Royals starters have gone into a season
without a win. In 1992, they didn't get one until their 18th
outing. ... With RHP Rick Helling still recovering from a broken
bone in his lower leg, the Twins will start RHP Seth Greisinger on
Sunday. It's the first time they've needed a fifth starter this
year. ... Kansas City RHP Kevin Appier will come off the disabled
list and make his first start of the season Saturday. He hasn't
pitched since last Aug. 26, also at Minnesota, after undergoing
surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow.