Minneapolis The Twins bullpen is 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA and six saves in six chances over Minnesota's first 14 games.
And this was supposed to be the team's weakness?
Torii Hunter went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and Twins relievers were unscored upon once again as Minnesota beat the Kansas City Royals, 8-5, Tuesday night.
"If it wasn't for our bullpen, who knows where we'd be," said Twins starter Rick Reed, who allowed five runs, seven hits and three walks in 31/3 innings.
Minnesota's rotation, thought to be the strength of the team with four pitchers who have been All-Stars, is 5-5 with a 7.56 ERA and has averaged less than five innings per outing.
"You have to be proud of our bullpen," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They're pulling us along right now. I want my starters going deeper into games and doing more, and they will do that. As we get going, our starters will be our strength."
Corey Koskie had two hits and two RBIs for Minnesota, which won its fourth straight.
Tony Fiore (1-0) kept Reed's line from swelling by striking out Mike Sweeney and retiring Michael Tucker on a deep fly to right with the bases loaded in the fourth.
Starter Joe Mays has inflammation in his right elbow and will miss his next scheduled start, so Fiore will fill in on Saturday against Cleveland.
J.C. Romero and Mike Jackson bridged the gap between Fiore and Eddie Guardado, who struck out two in a perfect ninth for his sixth save.
"We had some opportunities against Reed to do some more damage and we didn't do it," Kansas City's Joe Randa said. "When you're playing here, you need as many runs as you can get."
Sweeney had three hits and an RBI and Tucker and Joe Randa each drove in two runs for the Royals, who lost their third in a row and sixth straight to the Twins.
Kansas City starter Dan Reichert gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings but watched reliever Blake Stein (0-1) blow a 5-4 lead in a four-run sixth by Minnesota.
"You can put it on me," Stein said. "I didn't get it done and everybody else did."
Hunter, who has 14 hits in his last 23 at-bats, started the inning with a single and scored on a double by Koskie, who went to third when second baseman Carlos Febles dropped the relay throw.
Dustan Mohr reached on a fielder's choice when shortstop Neifi Perez tried to catch Koskie off the bag at third, and A.J. Pierzynski drove in Koskie with a single to give the Twins their first lead, 6-5.
Jacque Jones hit a sacrifice fly and Cristian Guzman's high chopper over Randa at third base put Minnesota up by three.
The Royals went up 3-0 after one and 5-2 after three, but the Twins wouldn't quit.
"They're a gritty team," Randa said. "They're the best offensive team we've played, and we've played Boston, the White Sox and Cleveland."
Reed threw 33 pitches in the first as the Royals put four straight runners on after one out and took a three-run lead on Tucker's bases-loaded double that scored two and Randa's sacrifice fly.
In the third, Sweeney scored to make it 5-2 on Randa's triple by reaching over Minnesota catcher Tom Prince and touching the plate after a collision. Prince only got a chance to argue for a few seconds before being ejected by umpire Paul Emmel.
"There's a lot of intensity in our baseball team," Gardenhire said. "We want to do well."
Notes: Twins RHP Jack Cressend was suspended for three games and fined for hitting Cleveland's Ricky Guitierrez with a pitch last week. Cressend will appeal. ... The Royals put LHP Darrell May on the DL Monday with a left groin strain but still haven't made a move to replace him on the roster. ... Royals left fielder Chuck Knoblauch, a four-time All-Star second baseman with the Twins from 1991-97, returned to the Metrodome for the first time since last May with the New York Yankees when fans threw cups, hot dogs and other objects at him and nearly forced the Twins to forfeit. Knoblauch, who went 2-for-5 with a double, was booed but nothing was thrown.