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Pirates Slug Past Twins

The Pittsburgh Pirates supposedly are a team of the future, yet they're showing flashes of the past those late-inning rallies that marked their unexpectedly good season of a year ago.

Jason Kendall hit a bases-loaded single with none out in the 12th inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied from three runs down to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3 Saturday night for their seventh straight victory.

The Pirates trailed 3-0 until tying it in the seventh inning on rookie Aramis Ramirez's RBI triple, only his second major league hit, and Turner Ward's two-run pinch-hit homer.

"I just felt like we were going to win it somehow, somewhere," Ward said. "Last year we did a lot of that, coming from behind. You don't want to get down a lot, but when you're playing well you want to ride it as long as you can."

Chance Sanford, hitless in 17 at-bats, started the Pirates' 12th with a single and Tony Womack blooped a single into left-center off Rick Aguilera (2-3), the Twins' closer who was pitching his second inning.

Manny Martinez's bunt then crossed up third baseman Ron Coomer, who inexplicably covered the bag rather than field the ball. With the infield and outfield pulled in, Kendall hit a drive that just missed leaving the park.

"I didn't think I got it out, but I knew we'd won it," Kendall said. "That was a good one for us."

And a bad one for the Twins, who got three gift runs off Pirates errors only to give them back with their sloppy defense in the 12th.

"They got one quality hit to start that inning, they blooped one in and we messed up the bunt," Twins manager Tom Kelly said. "You preach from day one of spring training that you have to get one out when they're giving you one. When you don't execute fundamentals, something bad is going to happen to you, and it certainly did to us."

Esteban Loaiza (3-3) extended the Pirates' bullpen's scoreless streak to 20 innings by pitching the 12th for the victory, his first since being demoted from the starting rotation.

Twins starter Eric Milton carried a 3-0 lead into the seventh, but wound up with a no-decision after Ramirez tripled and Ward greeted reliever Mike Trombley with a two-run pinch-hit homer on an 0-2 pitch.

"He (Trombley) made two real good pitches to him and he looked like he had him dead meat," Kelly said. "Then he hung a forkball and the worst thing that can happen happened. Give him credit for hitting it, but that wasn't Mike's best pitch."

Pittsburgh starter Francisco Cordova also didn't figure in the decision despite pitching well, giving up three unearned runs on two Pirates errors and striking out seven in seven innings.

The biggest misplay was charged to Cordova, a two-run error for not catching second baseman Womck's throw on Matt Lawton's apparent inning-ending grounder in the fourth. Cordova drew the error even though the throw sailed several feet to his left as he ran to cover first.

The Twins made it 3-0 in the sixth when right fielder Jose Guillen dropped Ron Coomer's fly ball for a run-scoring error. Guillen was charging in to make a one-handed catch when the ball skipped off his glove.

The Twins put two runners on in the ninth, 10th and 11th, but Ricardo Rincon escaped the first jam and Elmer Dessens got out of the last two.

"We consistently didn't get the hit when we needed it, we didn't get it done and we lost," Kelly said.

Notes: Sanford's hit wasn't good enough to keep him in the majors. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville after the game, and shortstop Lou Collier was activated off the 15-day disabled list. ... Pirates pitchers have allowed only one earned run in the last 37 innings. ... The No. 8 spot in the Pirates' order was 3-for-5 with a homer and three extra-base hits. Kevin Polcovich doubled twice ahead of Ward's shot, his first career pinch-hit homer. ... Milton was a high school star in Bellefonte, Pa., about 125 miles east of Pittsburgh. He pitched into the seventh for only the third time in 12 starts. ... Milton went 2-for-3 in his first career at-bats. Twins pitchers are 3-for-5 in the series. ... Both teams are 2-6 in extra innings. ... The Pirates' longest winning streak last season also was seven.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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