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Ryan's RBI hit does it for Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A big reason the Minnesota Twins are in the
running for a third straight division title is that everyone on the
roster contributes.

Sure enough, they rode their bullpen and their bench to a wild
15-inning victory on Thursday night.

Reserve outfielder Michael Ryan's one-out single gave the Twins
a 3-2 win and a three-game sweep over the New York Mets.

"How about that?" said Joe Roa, one of five Minnesota
relievers who teamed to pitch eight scoreless innings.

Luis Rivas beat out an infield single with one out in the 15th
off Ricky Bottalico (2-1), and Cristian Guzman moved him to third
with single. Ryan hit the first pitch of his at-bat to end it, and
right fielder Karim Garcia kicked the ball in frustration.

"Just looking for something up," said Ryan, who saw Bottalico
throw a first-pitch changeup to Guzman and was ready for the same
thing.

The Mets were one out from winning, but pinch-hitter Jose
Offerman hit a tying double in the ninth off closer Braden Looper
to spoil a strong outing by starter Matt Ginter.

"We had it in our back pocket," New York manager Art Howe
said.

Both teams had several chances in extra innings, and the Mets
wasted a great one in the 11th when Joe Nathan walked three -- one
intentionally. But Garcia struck out, giving his team a .109
average (6-for-55) with the bases loaded this year.

"We couldn't put it in play when we had to," Howe said.

Cliff Floyd hit a home run and an RBI double for the Mets, who
got five hits, two runs and a walk off Twins starter Kyle Lohse in
seven innings -- his longest outing of the season.

Lohse, who struck out three, failed to win consecutive starts
for the first time this year as the Twins again struggled to score.

But over the next couple hours, they showed why they're once
again a contender.

Relievers Aaron Fultz, Juan Rincon, Nathan, Roa and winner Grant
Balfour (1-0) allowed only three hits while striking out 10.

Ryan and Offerman, two of their least-used players, came up with
clutch hits.

And with New York's Shane Spencer on second and one out in the
15th, Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter tracked down
consecutive flies on the warning track with long, running catches.

"I felt like I was going to pass out," Hunter said.

Looper blew his second save of the year when Matthew LeCroy
singled with two outs and Offerman drove him in with a double to
the wall in left-center field.

"I wish I could have had that one back," Looper said.

The burly LeCroy chugged around third as center fielder Mike
Cameron, a two-time Gold Glove winner, overthrew two cut-off men
and the ball trickled into the infield.

"I know I can't run," LeCroy said, "but I'm going to try as
hard as I can."

He was the only catcher left, so the Twins couldn't pinch-run
for him. LeCroy smiled, upon realizing that, and cracked a joke to
Mets first baseman Todd Zeile.

"I told Zeile, 'I'll pick them up and put them down," LeCroy
said. "He started laughing."

The biggest disappointment for the Mets was Cameron's errant
throw.

"You've got to hit one of those two guys," Howe said.

Ginter gave up five hits, one run and one walk in 7 2-3 innings
-- striking out one in the longest outing of his career. He left
with a 2-1 lead, watching his relievers nearly lose it in the
eighth before doing so in the ninth.

Acquired from the White Sox in a spring trade for outfielder
Timo Perez, Ginter -- a marginal reliever for Chicago the past four
seasons -- is 1-0 with a 2.43 ERA in six starts this year. He has
allowed just three earned runs over his last 22 2-3 innings.

"This poor guy," Howe said. "We haven't gotten it done for
him."

Game notes
This was the Mets' longest game since Sept. 12, 1997, when
they lost 3-2 in 15 innings to Montreal at Shea Stadium. ... Mets
starters have a 2.20 ERA over their past 16 starts. New York has
the best ERA in the majors. ... Guzman had an RBI single in the
third. ... Twins starters have thrown at least seven innings in
seven of their last nine outings. ... Mets RHP Scott Erickson, on a
rehab assignment with a strained left hamstring, has made two
starts for Triple-A Norfolk and will make one more before he's
ready to be activated from the DL.