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Royals reclaim piece of AL Central lead

8/29/2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Because Mike Sweeney likes to hit in the
late innings, the Kansas City Royals are back atop the AL Central --
by the slimmest of margins.

Sweeney singled in the winning run in the 11th inning to help
Kansas City overcome two homers by Alex Rodriguez in the Royals'
6-5 win Thursday night over the Texas Rangers.

"I want to be the guy," said Sweeney, 4-for-6 in extra innings
this year. "When the game is on the line, I want to be at the
plate."

A-Rod's two solo shots tied him with Barry Bonds for the major
league lead with 39 homers.

After Joe Randa led off the 11th with a single off Erasmo Ramirez (3-1), Sweeney punched the ball up the middle to give
Kansas City a three-game sweep and move the Royals back atop the AL
Central by .0005 percentage points over the Chicago White Sox.

"We've got four or five guys in our lineup who are capable of
doing that. That's what you've got to have," Randa said. "But
Mike's one of the best hitters in the American League, and you
always like to see him in a situation like that."

Sweeney's game-winner came three innings after manager Tony Pena
had to get between him and plate umpire Scott Nelson. Sweeney
thought Francisco Cordero had hit him on the hand, but Nelson said after the
game that Einar Diaz had caught Sweeney's foul tip.

"I'm not going to lie on the ground writhing in pain for nothing," Sweeney said."

D.J. Carrasco (6-4) pitched two hitless innings for the win.

Randa hit a solo homer off Cordero with two outs in
the eighth, extending his hitting streak to 11 games and giving the
Royals a 5-4 lead after Rodriguez's leadoff shot off Curtis Leskanic ignited Texas' four-run eighth.

But Rodriguez led off the ninth with a shot to right off Mike MacDougal, who blew his eighth save in 34 chances.

"I just tried to get ahead of him, and he connected," MacDougal said.

Royals' starter Paul Abbott shut out the Rangers through six
innings, allowing only one hit as he tried for his first win in
more than 16 months. He was replaced by Jeremy Affeldt after rain delayed the game for an hour and 42 minutes in the bottom of the
sixth.

After Rodriguez's first home run, Laynce Nix hit a two-run
double. Al Levine relieved Leskanic and gave up Mark Teixeira's
single and Diaz's RBI single before getting Michael Young to
ground into a fielder's choice and Hank Blalock to fly out to
right.

Abbott struck out six and walked four. Blalock had Texas' only
hit against him, a soft single over the outstretched glove of
second baseman Mendy Lopez, with two out in the third.

Abbott's last victory was April 13, 2002, when he pitched
Seattle to a 9-4 win against the Rangers.

Three of Kansas City's runs were unearned, the result of two errors.

Mike DiFelice's sacrifice fly scored Raul Ibanez in the second
inning after he went to second on shortstop Rodriguez's throwing
error.

"I just didn't make the throw," Rodriguez said. "I knew Raul
gets down the line really well, and I just didn't make the play."

In the seventh, Ibanez tripled off starter Ismael Valdes before
the rain delay and scored on Ron Mahay's wild pitch after play
resumed to make it 2-0.

Angel Berroa capped Kansas City's two-run eighth with a bloop
single that scored Ibanez from second for a 4-0 lead.

Valdes gave up two runs -- one earned -- on six hits and two
walks. The rain delay began with one on and one out in the sixth,
and Mahay relieved Valdes when play resumed.

"I thought Izzy pitched well," Texas manager Buck Showalter
said. "He deserved to come out of there with no runs."

Texas is 0-9 against the Royals since its win June 2, 2002.
Before Rodriguez's homer, the Rangers had not scored since Rafael Palmeiro homered in the second inning of Kansas City's 9-2 win Tuesday.

The Rangers' 21-inning scoreless streak was their second-longest
of the season after a 22-inning streak from July 12-14. The Royals'
21-inning shutout streak was their longest since 1989.

Game notes
During the rain delay, fans watched the Kansas City Chiefs'
NFL exhibition game against the St. Louis Rams on the JumboTron
screen at Kauffman Stadium. ... Rodriguez's error was only his
third in the last 79 games. His two homers gave him 14 this month,
best in the majors. ... DiFelice returned from a two-game
suspension for throwing coolers and a trash can onto the field
after he was ejected from a game Aug. 16.