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Twins rally into tie atop AL Central, past Royals in 10

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Brad Radke, as steady as anyone in the
Minnesota clubhouse, fought tears and was forced to turn away when
talking about his return to the mound became too tough.

Manager Ron Gardenhire shook his head and laughed at the thought
of his team, 12 games back just 2½ months ago, being tied for first
place.

This has been an unbelievable season for the Twins, and it's not
done yet.

Jason Bartlett's single to deep center field with the bases
loaded in the 10th inning Thursday night gave Minnesota a 2-1
victory over the Kansas City Royals and moved the Twins into a tie
for the AL Central lead with Detroit, which lost to Toronto 8-6.

"Who would have thought?" catcher Joe Mauer said after his
homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth tied it and gave Joe
Nelson his first blown save in 10 chances.

Joe Nathan (7-0) pitched the 10th for the win, long after
Radke's impressive return and right before Bartlett's big hit
capped another wild night at the Metrodome.

It began with Radke, who needed only 57 pitches to get through
five easy innings after fighting shoulder problems that kept him
out for the past month. The only run against him was unearned,
scoring on a double by Paul Phillips in the second -- one of three
hits allowed by Radke.

The 33-year-old has said he plans to retire after the season,
and he helped pitch the Twins back in the race despite a torn
labrum and a stress fracture that was later found in his throwing
shoulder. He left his last start, Aug. 25 at Chicago, after only
two innings.

"You see a lot of things in this game as a manager, coach and
player, but watching him go to the mound and be able to throw the
ball like that was pretty special," Gardenhire said.

Nearly as incredible has been the comeback by Minnesota (95-64),
which was 25-33 when play began on June 8 and still in fourth place
and 12 games back as late as July 15.

Since then, they're 46-24.

"I'm amazed at what happened out there," Radke said. "When
Joe hit that home run, it felt like the seventh game of the World
Series."

The Tigers, who hold the tiebreaker over the Twins by winning
the season series 11-8, host the Royals for their final three
games. Minnesota is home for the final three against the Chicago
White Sox.

"I'm at a loss for words right now," Radke said, his eyes
moistening.

Kansas City (59-100) wasn't able to avoid becoming the 11th team
in major league history to lose 100 games for a third straight
year.

"A lot out of those have been one-run games that didn't go our
way," said Luke Hudson, who scattered four singles over seven
innings to lower his ERA to 5.12. "We weren't always getting
pounded. We would come up one run short. It has happened several
times."

Justin Morneau started the 10th with a single off Scott Dohmann
(1-3). After David DeJesus made a sliding catch to steal a hit from
Torii Hunter, Rondell White's single up the middle squirted out of
the infield and Morneau raced to third. Jason Tyner was
intentionally walked, and Bartlett's hit -- ruled a single -- sailed
over the head of a drawn-in DeJesus and bounced over the fence.

Since clinching at least the wild card on Monday night, the
Twins have been trying to catch the Tigers -- and figure out who
they can trust to pitch in the postseason. Cy Young Award favorite
Johan Santana is set to pitch Game 1 of the division series, and
rookie Boof Bonser has been named the No. 2 starter.

They need four, though, and Carlos Silva, whose ERA is 6.07
after yet another poor outing this week, probably can't be counted
on. That leaves the ailing Radke and up-and-down rookie Matt Garza,
who began the year in Class A.

Radke received a loud cheer from the crowd of 26,654 when he was
introduced and when he threw his first pitch -- a called strike on
the inside corner to DeJesus.

He walked two and struck out one. Mitch Maier singled in the
second, moved up when Hunter let the ball get past him in center
field for an error, and scored on the double down the left-field
line by Phillips.

Though Gardenhire demurred on the question, it's clear that
Radke will have a spot in the rotation as long as he recovers all
right from this start.

"I'm sure relieved," Radke said.

Kansas City has been in next-year mode for months, and the
29-year-old Hudson, who beat Minnesota here on Aug. 30, allowing
two runs in seven innings, has made a push to be included in the
2007 rotation. He has either won or left the game with a lead in 12
of his 15 starts.

"He has pitched well and certainly deserved much better,"
interim manager Billy Doran said.

Game notes
Mauer went 1-for-4 and leads the majors at .349. ... A
surgically removed growth behind Royals manager Buddy Bell's left
tonsil was cancerous, his doctor said. The biopsy revealed that
resected tissue surrounding the growth, however, was free of cancer
cells. Bell is resting at his home in Arizona. ... Alexi Casilla,
making his first career start, had his first major league hit. He
was acquired from the Angels last winter in a trade for reliever
J.C. Romero.