Clint Nageotte walked off the mound, his eyes wide with disbelief.

The Mariners' young right-hander, recalled from the minors just hours earlier, entered the game in relief to start the seventh inning yesterday against the Twins. Nageotte's first pitch sailed well over the head of Lew Ford.

Ford hit a three-run homer in his previous at-bat, so umpire Larry Poncino was suspicious. He ran out from behind the plate and ejected the stunned Nageotte -- prompting a futile argument from Mariners Manager Mike Hargrove.

"The umpire absolutely, totally overreacted," Hargrove said. "He's not throwing at anybody, least of all Lew Ford."

Nageotte claimed that he slipped on the rubber, causing him to lose control of the ball.

"I was not trying to hit him," he said. "That was the last thing going through my head."

Poncino, however, didn't see it that way.

"The kid can say what he wants," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind he was throwing at him."

The Twins weren't offended.

"I'm sure he's just trying to throw a strike in that situation," Ford said.

* ROYALS' NEW STREAK: Some members of the Royals speak optimistically about following their club-record 19-game skid with a long winning streak. But the fact is the final month and a half of the season could be just as frustrating as the previous three weeks for this inexperienced club.

After rallying to win yesterday's series finale in Oakland, 5-4 in 12 innings, the Royals headed home for three games against the Red Sox before a trip to New York for three games at Yankee Stadium.

"Now we've got to wait another year to go on that losing streak," P Jose Lima joked after Kansas City defeated the Athletics 2-1 Saturday night to end the majors' longest slide in 17 years.

The Royals stopped their streak two shy of the American League record, also snapping a 12-game road losing streak that tied the franchise single-season mark.

-- From News Services