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Double KO: Pavano, Cuddyer team up

Double KO: Pavano, Cuddyer team up

KANSAS CITY -- Justin Morneau was sitting at home in Minnesota for a third straight game, and Joe Mauer could have almost passed for a mere mortal.

Sounds like a bad combination, right?

Not on Sunday.

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Michael Cuddyer hit two homers in the seventh inning, Carl Pavano threw seven strong innings, and the Twins beat the Royals, 10-3, in front of 18,680 fans at Kauffman Stadium. The win moved Minnesota 4 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit -- which lost to Oakland, 9-4 -- in the American League Central.

Of course, the Twins got all the power they needed from Cuddyer, who became the first player in Twins history to hit two home runs in the same inning. Cuddyer, doing his best Morneau impersonation, hit his two long balls in the seventh -- two deep bookends in an eight-run inning.

The first -- a first-pitch solo shot off Royals starter Brian Bannister -- gave the Twins a 2-1 lead.

The second -- a two-run, 427-foot blast over the fountains in left -- came off reliever Kyle Farnsworth and stretched the Twins' lead to 9-1.

"I don't think I've ever had two hits in one inning," said Cuddyer, whose two homers give him 22 on the season.

The eight-run onslaught in the seventh left little room for suspense, and the Twins sealed their first series sweep since taking three in a row against the White Sox from July 27-30.

They did it without Morneau, and they did it with no major fireworks from Mauer, who still managed to collect two more hits and keep his average at .378.

"To come in here and play like this -- [with Morneau] not here -- the guys stepped up," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's about everybody stepping up."

And if what Gardenhire says is true, and it does start with pitching, then it started with Pavano on Sunday.

In his best start since debuting with seven scoreless innings against Detroit on Aug. 2, Pavano allowed just two runs over seven innings and left with two strikeouts against zero walks.

"This time of year, obviously we're making a push," Pavano said. "And to come in here and take three and going back home carrying some momentum -- I like it."

The weather was near perfect on Sunday -- blue skies and 70 degrees -- but for the first six innings, both pitchers pitched like they couldn't wait to get back inside.

Pavano mowed through the first five frames, allowing just three hits while retiring 10 in a row from the last out of the second through the end of the fifth.

Pavano's only real trouble came in the bottom of the first, when the Royals put runners at the corners with two outs. But the threat ended quickly when Pavano induced Mike Jacobs to pop out to shortstop and retired Alberto Callaspo on a grounder to second.

Pavano finally surrendered a run with two outs in the sixth. The shutout-breaking hit came courtesy of Jacobs, who lined a single past shortstop Orlando Cabrera and drove in David DeJesus from second.

Jacobs' single tied the game at 1, but that score lasted about five minutes until Cuddyer came to the plate in the seventh.

Cuddyer and the Twins chased Bannister, and Denard Span added a three-run triple in the inning to bust the game wide open.

And then Cuddyer grabbed some icing and smeared it all over the Twins' weekend sweep with his second homer.

"Obviously it was a very special day," said Cuddyer, who's hitting .326 with 12 RBIs this season against the Royals.

Cuddyer became the 53rd player in Major League history to hit two home runs in the same inning. David Ortiz did it last year on Aug. 12, while Jim Edmonds, who did it last June 21 for the Cubs, was the most recent National League player to do it.

"He's having a strong year obviously," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "He's a run-producer."

Now the Twins can return home -- where they'll hopefully find a healthy Morneau -- and open a crucial nine-game homestand with some momentum.

"A good road trip. A really good road trip," Gardenhire said. "Now we're going home with a couple teams coming in there. You have to defend your home."

It's almost September, but the Twins may still be learning new things about themselves. And for a team that's still trying to mount a run in a winnable division, that's a good thing.

"You can always learn things," Cuddyer said. "We learned that we have a lot of fight left in us."

Rustin Dodd is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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