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King Homers, Royals Sweep Twins

The race is on in the AL Central. For second place, anyway.

That's about all the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins have left to play for with seven weeks remaining and the Cleveland Indians virtually too far in front to catch.

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  • The Royals edged a half-game ahead of Minnesota with a wild 8-7 victory Thursday, capped by Jeff King's two-run homer in the ninth inning. That gave Kansas City its sixth win in seven games, its first three-game sweep in more than two years and bragging rights in a division race that means little outside of the two clubhouses.

    "There's been a lot of talk about (second place) in Kansas City the last few years," said closer Jeff Montgomery, who recorded his 15th consecutive save and his 26th of the season. "We finished last last year. I'm one of those guys who thinks if you don't finish first it doesn't matter. (But) I know for the organization (second place) is big."

    It is for the Twins , too.

    They had been comfortably in second from late May -- until the Royals came to town this week -- and even had aspirations of catching the Indians with a strong second half.

    But they are 11-15 since the All-Star break and riding a five-game losing streak. That includes two more one-run losses the last two games, giving them 21 for the year. The laest, in which Marty Cordova's go-ahead two-run single in the eighth was wasted, left them as low as they've been all season.

    "A lot of times races are determined by the one-run games you play," Todd Walker said. "We've come up on the short end a lot. But losing one-run games is a lot better than losing six- or seven-run games."

    Jose Offerman extended his hitting streak to 25 games for the Royals with two hits, including a solo homer that gave Kansas City a 5-1 lead in the third. Offerman now has the second-longest hitting streak in the majors this season, three short of Garret Anderson's 28-game streak.

    Offerman trails George Brett (1983) with the second-longest hitting streak in Royals' history. Brett hit safely in 30 straight games in 1980.

    "It's not easy," Offerman said. "I'm just being lucky. It's been fun, especially when we win."

    The Royals completed their first three-game sweep since May 1996 at California. They are in second place for the first time since May 7, and they got there despite blowing leads of 4-0 and 5-1 in the early innings, and 6-5 in the eighth after Terry Pendleton's sacrifice fly.

    Minnesota loaded the bases for the fourth time in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after failing to score the first three times, Cordova delivered a two-out, line-drive single to right to score two for a 7-6 lead.

    But the Royals had the final comeback, with King hitting his 21st homer off Rick Aguilera (3-7) for the deciding runs in a game both teams might have locked up earlier with a clutch hit or two.

    Scott Service (4-2) got the win despite giving up Cordova's go-ahead hit.

    Cordova was 2-for-2 with three walks and three RBI after coming in hitting .107 in his last 14 games. But manager Tom Kelly was livid about a baserunning mistake by Cordova that ended up costing the Twins what would have been the go-ahead run in the seventh.

    Ron Coomer tried to score on a single to left by Walker, but Hal Morris' throw got Coomer at the plate. Cordova failed to advance to third on the throw. If he had, he would have scored when Mark Whisenant followed with a wild pitch.

    Instead, Cordova was stranded at third when Matt Lawton walked and Javier Valentin flew out to right field to end the inning.

    "He misran the bases," Kelly snapped when asked about Cordova's hitting. "If you call that a great day, fine." Notes

  • Twins center fielder Otis Nixon missed his second straight game with a sore hamstring. He hopes to return to the lineup Friday.
  • Offerman had a disagreement with umpire Larry McCoy for the second straight game. He briefly exchanged words with McCoy at home plate before hitting a homer in the ninth inning Wednesday. Thursday, Offerman sarcastically tipped his helmet to McCoy at third when McCoy called him out on a check-swing third strike in the fifth.
  • Although Paul Molitor is hitting just .158 in his last 10 games, he still has eight RBIs in that stretch.
  • King went 3-for-5 and is hitting .448 in his last seven games.

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