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Royals avoid franchise futility record with win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Kansas City Royals can see a better
future, even if it is a little clouded at the moment by all those
defeats.

Mike Sweeney went 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBI, helping
the Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 10-6 on Thursday night and
avoid setting the club record for losses in a season.

Mark Teahen and John Buck hit solo home runs in a five-run sixth
inning off rookie Travis Bowyer (0-1), who then gave up two singles
before Sweeney crushed the first pitch he saw into the left-center
field seats to give Kansas City a 10-6 lead.

"I never really doubted the character of this team," said
manager Buddy Bell, who took over in May after Tony Pena was fired.
"Inexperience shows, and that's something we've got to live with,
but the character has always been there. ... We've got a lot of
young guys that need to show progress if we're going to get better,
and I think they will."

The Royals (55-104) must sweep a three-game series against the
Blue Jays this weekend to keep from becoming the losingest team in
franchise history. They went 58-104 last year.

"This late in the year," Sweeney said, "we put the emphasis
on not quitting and definitely not packing our bags until that last
out in Toronto."

Nick Punto hit a two-run homer, and Luis Rodriguez had a
three-run homer for Minnesota (80-79), which needs one more victory
during a three-game series against Detroit to ensure a fifth
consecutive winning season -- something that has never happened in
the club's 45 years.

That's not much consolation for the Twins, whose streak of three
straight AL Central titles officially ended earlier in the day when
Chicago clinched.

"It's been a long year," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've
been through a lot of ups and downs, so hopefully we'll come out
and put forth a great effort this weekend."

D.J. Carrasco (6-8), making his first relief appearance this
year, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the victory after starter
Mike Wood left trailing 6-5.

"We just want to end on a good note," Carrasco said, "and
play some good baseball."

Joe Mays had what was likely his last outing for Minnesota,
allowing five runs in five innings. He labored through the first
two innings, before settling down and retiring the last 11 men he
faced.

But the damage was done to Mays, who gave up five hits and three
walks while striking out four. After winning 17 games in 2001 and
signing a $20 million, four-year contract, Mays was never the same.
He missed the entire 2004 season following reconstructive elbow
surgery and went 6-10 in 31 games, 26 starts, with a 5.65 ERA this
year. The Twins have an option on his contract for 2006 that won't
be picked up.

"He battled his tail off," Gardenhire said. "I tip my hat for
him for that."

Mays has won only 18 games since his All-Star season in 2001,
but he believes he'll come back stronger next year as most pitchers
who have the "Tommy John" surgery do in the second season after
the operation. Whether that's with Minnesota remains to be seen.

"If it's in the plans, great," he said. "If not, you've got
to cut your ties and move on and start a career somewhere else."

The best news for Kansas City came from the front office -- the
signing of third baseman Alex Gordon, the second overall pick in
the June draft who helped lead Nebraska to the College World
Series.

On the field, where a second consecutive miserable season has
taken place, the rebuilding Royals offered an extended look at the
three prospects they acquired in last summer's trade of All-Star
outfielder Carlos Beltran.

Wood, who moved into the rotation in August and made his 10th
start, couldn't hold a 5-0 lead and lasted only four innings --
allowing seven hits and six runs. His ERA as a starter jumped to
4.85.

But Buck and Teahen, who have struggled offensively as regulars
at catcher and third base, respectively, sparked the rally in the
sixth with their solo shots off Bowyer, who is still trying to
figure out how to throw an effective breaking ball.

"In this league, you're going to get hammered if you just throw
fastballs," Gardenhire said.

Game notes
The last time the Twins allowed three homers in one inning
was on Aug. 12, 2003, against Cleveland. ... Matt Stairs had an RBI
single and Angel Berroa added a two-run single in the first. ...
Punto's homer was the first by Minnesota in a week, spanning 202
at-bats.