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Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan throws against the Kansas City Royals in the ninth inning Saturday in Minneapolis. AP Photo/Jim Mone

Winning hit comes from Cuddyer, Nathan earns the save

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Winning hit comes from Cuddyer, Nathan earns the save
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Michael Cuddyer singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and Joe Nathan did his job as the new closer Saturday night, giving the Minnesota Twins a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.

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Cuddyer, Minnesota's lone All-Star representative, singled off Aaron Crow to drive in Alexi Casilla.

Nathan finished for his fourth save in seven chances. Earlier in the day, the Twins put the former All-Star back into his familiar role, replacing the struggling Matt Capps. Nathan earned his first save since the Twins' home opener at Target Field.

Drew Butera added a solo home run for Minnesota. Glen Perkins (1-1) pitched a perfect eighth for the victory.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire left the stadium during the game with an illness -- he's been dealing with a viral infection. Bench coach Scott Ullger finished the game as the acting manager.

Jeff Francis (3-11) lost his fifth straight decision, giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk.

Francis got one out in the eighth before back-to-back singles by Casilla and Joe Mauer chased him. Crow entered, and Cuddyer met him with a single that broke a tie at 3-all.

Still stuck six games under .500, the Twins are opening the second half with 12 straight home games, all against AL Central opponents. Minnesota used a 24-11 surge going into the All-Star break to cut their 10-game deficit.

Playing Central team is usually a good tonic for Minnesota, which has won 13 of its last 16 games against division foes. The Twins have also won 16 of their last 21 home games.

Alcides Escobar homered for Kansas City, which has lost six of seven to the Twins.

Carl Pavano pitched seven innings for Minnesota, allowing three runs and six hits. He cruised through the first four innings, allowing just two hits.

The Royals broke through with Escobar's two-out homer in the fifth and added a run in the sixth as Melky Cabrera singled, stole second and scored on a groundout by Eric Hosmer.

Francis was in trouble early. Mauer had an RBI grounder, Cuddyer singled and Delmon Young doubled for a 2-0 lead in the first. Butera's second homer made it 3-0 in the fourth.

Francis retired 11 batters in a row before Casilla's single in the eighth.

It was Bert's turn to be circled.

The Minnesota Twins held a pregame ceremony on Saturday night before they played the Kansas City Royals to retire pitcher Bert Blyleven's No. 28 jersey.

The ceremony honored Blyleven's induction into the baseball Hall of Fame next weekend. Blyleven becomes the sixth Twins player to have his jersey retired. He joins Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett. Jackie Robinson's No. 42 is also retired.

Blyleven threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. The right-hander with the big curveball spent almost 11 years with the Twins during his career.

He now works as a color commentator for Twins television broadcasts.

The Twins retired former pitcher Bert Blyleven's No. 28 in a pregame ceremony. Blyleven pitched 11 seasons for Minnesota and holds the franchise records for complete games (141), shutouts (29) and strikeouts (2,035). Blyleven will be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame next week and is the sixth Twins player to have his number retired. ... Minnesota OFs Denard Span (concussion) and Jason Kubel (foot) traveled to Triple-A Rochester to begin their rehab assignments. Span is set to play five innings in the outfield on Sunday, while Kubel will play nine innings as the designated hitter. .... Beginning with the four-game road trip against the Twins, Kansas City will play 28 of its first 41 games after the All-Star break on the road.

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Pioneer staff reports
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