MINNEAPOLIS -- While batting with the bases loaded has not been Minnesota's strength this season, the Twins started to break that dangerous trend in a two-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals.
"Hey, it's good to have the bases loaded," Ford said. "We haven't come through every time, but we got the guys out there. We're getting guys on base. That's a good sign. ... When our bats come around, we're going to be scoring a lot of runs."
During a two-game sweep earlier this week by the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox, Minnesota went 0-for-6 with the bases full and grounded into two double plays. After Ford's big hit, the Twins are still batting only .167 (4-for-24) in those situations.
"We're starting to get some of them in," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've got a few people who need to get better."
Jason Bartlett doubled with one out against Shawn Camp (0-1), Torii Hunter was intentionally walked and Matthew LeCroy singled to load the bases. Ford's bouncer up the middle scored Bartlett to end it -- after Joe Nathan (1-0) had struck out the side in the top of the inning.
"We're putting ourselves in position to win ballgames," Kansas City's John Buck said, "and for one reason or another not getting the job done."
That's the way Minnesota felt in Chicago, dropping two to the rival White Sox. But the Twins have since rebounded at the plate, even if it was against the reeling Royals -- losers of eight of their last 10.
Angel Berroa's single drove in Mike Sweeney in the ninth to put Kansas City ahead briefly. Sweeney arrived at home the same time as left fielder Ford's three-hop throw, crashing into Mike Redmond and forcing the dazed catcher out of the game with bruised ribs.
But closer Mike MacDougal relinquished the lead and nearly lost it in the bottom of the ninth, which started with a four-pitch walk to Hunter -- who scored on a high-bouncing double down the left-field line by Jacque Jones. Pinch-hitter Terry Tiffee struck out with the bases loaded, ending the inning.
Hunter's walk was what the Royals regretted most.
"That's the worst thing that can happen," manager Tony Pena said.
Hunter hit a two-run homer for the Twins in the first, and LeCroy followed him with a solo shot. Hunter drove in three runs, giving him 15 this season.
John Buck and Emil Brown each busted slumps for the Royals, who tied it at 8 against Matt Guerrier in a three-run sixth. Buck, the catcher acquired from Houston in last summer's trade of Carlos Beltran, homered to lead off the inning. Calvin Pickering walked and then Brown hit a two-run shot.
Buck, who went 4-for-5, got his first RBI in 20 games and boosted his batting average from .135 to .214. Brown, who ended an 0-for-21 slide, had two hits.
"That was good to see," Pena said. "Those guys can swing the bat and hit better than they've been hitting."
Relievers Mike Wood and Andrew Sisco combined for five scoreless innings after Brian Anderson was removed. But after tying it, the Royals wasted two prime chances to take the lead.
Ruben Gotay was caught stealing home on a botched squeeze play when Tony Graffanino whiffed on his one-out bunt attempt in the sixth. Gotay bounced to drawn-in second baseman Luis Rivas with one out in the eighth, but Rivas threw out Buck at home.
Kansas City starting pitchers haven't picked up a win in their last 11 games, and Anderson blew his chance while stumbling through the third on a slew of singles by the Twins. They hit six, in all, during a four-run rally enhanced by Hunter's sneaky baserunning.
With men on the corners and nobody out, Anderson had Hunter picked off first base -- but he stopped his retreat short and avoided Sweeney's tag before taking off for second and arriving before the stunned Sweeney's throw.
- Anderson watched his ERA balloon from 3.95 to 7.02. He gave up 10 hits and eight runs -- seven earned -- before being replaced with no outs in the fourth.
- Dave Gassner, who last week became the first Minnesota pitcher in seven years to win his major league debut with six solid innings against Cleveland, lasted just 1 2/3 innings. He gave up six hits and five runs, four earned thanks to his throwing error.
- With his ninth steal in nine attempts, Hunter moved into the major league lead.
- The Royals have lost 11 of their last 12 games here.
- The Twins have grounded into 20 double plays, most in the majors.