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Tomko's strong start tops Twins

Tomko's strong start tops Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Much to the Royals' relief, one sweep did not follow another.

The Royals snagged a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday to salvage the third game of the series at the Metrodome. Frankly, the Royals needed a pick-me-up after losing the first two games here.

They'd arrived after a stirring three-game sweep at Detroit and a flat-out reversal would have taken the edge off that unexpected high. But this win sent them into their home opener against the New York Yankees on Tuesday with a 4-2 record on their first trip.

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Not a bad start.

"I'm very happy with the road trip," manager Trey Hillman said. "Obviously, managers want more. But I'm very happy with the way we took the sweep in Detroit. Nobody got too high with it, and nobody got too low with the losses."

Hillman couldn't have scripted it better on Sunday. No. 5 starter Brett Tomko got through five scoreless innings, and the bullpen closed it out with just one run in the final four innings.

So far, the bullpen has given up two runs in 17 innings.

"It was a good week," reliever Jimmy Gobble said. "But we've got a long way to go."

Offensively, the Royals came up with just enough.

Boof Bonser, the Twins' starter, has had an unhappy dome life lately. In his previous nine Metrodome starts, he was 0-5. And right away the Royals put him behind, 2-0, in the second inning on Jose Guillen's single, Billy Butler's double and Alex Gordon's two-run single.

Tomko, making his first start for the Royals, built up a big pitch total despite holding the Twins scoreless for the first three innings. By then he'd already expended 69 pitches due to a plethora of foul balls.

By the end of the fifth inning, he'd made 92 pitches and that was deemed enough. He left with a 3-0 lead, thanks to some help from his defense. Jose Guillen gunned down Carlos Gomez trying to take second base and the Royals also reeled off two double plays for him.

Tomko threw 27 pitches in the first inning.

"I must have thrown 16 or 17 pitches to [Joe] Mauer; at least, that's what it felt like," he said. "Take that one at-bat away, and that's another inning."

Left-hander Ron Mahay came in from the bullpen for the sixth and got two easy outs. But a resounding thwack from Justin Morneau's bat signaled a soaring blast that carried into the right-field upper deck, an estimated 429 feet from the plate.

For Morneau, it was his second home run in two days after a sluggish 1-for-17 start to the season.

The Royals retrieved that run in the seventh as Gordon doubled just inside the right-field line, took third on Bonser's balk and scored on John Buck's single to left. That was Bonser's last inning.

After Mahay eased through the seventh -- aided by Joey Gathright's fence-crashing catch of a Jason Kubel drive -- Leo Nunez took the mound. The 21,765 fans at the Metrodome raised the roof when Matt Tolbert got a two-out double, but lefty specialist Gobble relieved Nunez and did his thing: He got Mauer to fly out.

Gathright came off the fence unscathed.

"I got a good jump, good read," he said. "I guess I've got to do something on defense, I'm not doing anything with the bat."

The script continued to go perfectly as closer Joakim Soria struck out the side in the ninth to get his third save.

"Jack does what Jack does," Hillman said, referring to Soria. "He made it look easy."

And, as a result of that good bullpen work, so did the Royals.

"The Twins are a scrappy team," Butler noted. "We felt like we played pretty good here, and yet we're going out with one win. But it's a lot better to go home 4-2 instead of 3-3. It gives you momentum going home."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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