KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Although his next birthday cake will have 41 candles, Ruben Sierra is not necessarily an old ballplayer.
"He is a presence," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.Pinch-hitting in the eighth inning Tuesday night, Sierra delivered an RBI single that tied the game and then Joe Mauer drove in the go-ahead run in a 2-1 victory over Kansas City that snapped the Twins' four-game losing streak.Gardenhire admitted he was asking Sierra to do something that is beyond the reach of most 17-year veterans."In those situations, a lot of times you just bunt them over," he said. "When you have a Ruben Sierra on the bench you're not afraid to let him take a whack and see what happens. That's the element he puts into our lineup. I'm not afraid to stick him up there and say, 'Go get 'em.' "Scott Elarton shut out the Twins on three hits through seven innings, but then Lew Ford singled against Luke Hudson (0-2) leading off the eighth.Ford advanced on John Buck's passed ball and scored on the pinch hit by Sierra, his second RBI in 11 at-bats.Shannon Stewart singled to send pinch-runner Nick Punto to third, and Mauer hit the go-ahead sacrifice fly off Andrew Sisco."It was two badly located fastballs right there that ended up getting me," Hudson said. "A badly located fastball to Sierra. It was supposed to be away, it came right back to the inner third. The same thing to the next hitter."Minnesota, 2-8 on the road and 6-3 at home, has come from behind in all eight of its wins.In Elarton's five starts, the Royals have scored five runs. Kansas City stranded 14 runners, three short of the team record for a nine-inning game."Was it 14?" asked Kansas City manager Buddy Bell. "Yeah, it's frustrating. We had a lot of opportunities. We just couldn't get it done. We swung at some balls out of the strike zone, weren't ready to hit early in the count."Francisco Liriano (1-0) pitched one scoreless inning for the win. Joe Nathan completed the seven-hitter for his third save in as many chances.Twins starter Kyle Lohse, who had allowed 13 hits and 18 runs in 14 innings this month, gave up one run and five hits in six innings with five walks and five strikeouts.Kansas City had taken a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Mark Grudzielanek's RBI grounder.Mike Sweeney, hitting only .173, tied a Royals record by walking four times. He was intentionally passed in the fourth to load the bases with two outs for Reggie Sanders, who popped up. Sanders stranded eight runners in his first four at-bats."I was using his aggressiveness to my advantage," Lohse said. "He's a good hitter. He's come up clutch. I was able to make pitches up and out of the zone and get him out in front a little on off-speeds. That was the key."Elarton, who had pitched well despite going 0-4 in his first four starts, allowed a two-out double to Juan Castro in the third and a single in the fourth to Mauer.Minnesota put runners on the corners with no outs in the seventh, but Elarton struck out Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau and got Tony Bautista to ground to deep shortstop for a force at second."He was great the way he got out of it that inning," Bell said. "He's going to win a lot of games for us. We've just got to start scoring some runs for him."
The game was delayed at the start 40 minutes by wet grounds and a light-to-heavy mist fell the first six innings. ... Hudson gave up hits to all three batters he faced. ... Stewart was back in left field for the Twins after missing four games for the birth of
his daughter in Miami. ... After Mauer singled in the fourth, Elarton caught him leaning toward second and picked off the Minnesota catcher.