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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The game that set the American League record for most doubles ended in the most appropriate possible way.

“A double play,” Royals third baseman Joe Randa said, “was the only way to finish that game.”

Mike DiFelice hit three doubles as Kansas City and the New York Yankees combined for 19 two-base hits Monday night in the Royals’ 12-9 victory.

Yankees starter David Wells lasted only three innings in his shortest outing of the season. He was set to return to New York for tests on his back.

“It’s a continuing problem he has. It’s somewhere in the lower back,” pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. “I’m not a medical person, so I can’t say much more.”

The teams broke the AL mark of 18 doubles by Cleveland and Minnesota on July 13, 1996. The major league record is 23 by St. Louis and the Chicago Cubs on July 12, 1931.

Mike Sweeney, Joe Randa and DiFelice all doubled during a four-run eighth inning off Yankees newcomer Bret Prinz to put the Royals ahead 12-7.

DiFelice drove in three runs as the Royals won their third in a row, taking advantage of the Yankees’ battered bullpen to send New York to its third straight loss.

Hideki Matsui went 3-for-4, nailed his 15th homer of the season but missed a rare opportunity to hit his career first cycle — in either the majors or Japan.

Matsui, who improved his average to .299, reached on a walk in the opening frame at Kauffman Stadium and stroked a double down the third-base line when the Yankees took a 5-1 lead in the third.

In the fifth, Matsui connected off starter Paul Abbott’s 0-0 pitch for a tie-breaking solo homer before the Royals regained the lead in the sixth. He had an RBI single to right in the seventh but struck out swinging in his fifth and final at-bat in the ninth.

Matsui also missed a chance for his first two-homer game in the majors by centimeters when he drilled a ball that just missed the right-field foul pole before striking out in the ninth.

Four relievers followed Wells, and each of them gave up at least a run. On Sunday, Seattle scored against all four New York relievers.

Wells came in with a 12-3 record and a 3.69 ERA.

“He had a real good warmup,” manager Joe Torre said. “It’s worrisome because he’s been pitching through it the last probably three starts and he’s been able to fight his way through it. Tonight, he wasn’t.”

The Royals set a team record with 11 doubles, then the Yankees made sure the game broke the league record for two-base hits as Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi hit them in the ninth.

“It’s just one of those wild nights that can’t be explained in baseball,” said Randa. “I promise you, nobody comes to the plate planning to hit doubles. They just happen.”

The Yankees had not lost in Kauffman Stadium since Sept. 6, 2000. They had swept the three-game series at Kansas City the past two seasons.

This matchup between division leaders drew a season-high crowd of 40,406 — just 379 short of capacity and almost unheard of in Kansas City so late in the year.

Rangers 9, Tigers 3

In Arlington, Texas, Todd Greene’s two-run homer keyed a five-run fifth inning, and Joaquin Benoit pitched five relief innings after a rain delay to lead the Rangers over Detroit.

Athletics 4, Red Sox 0

In Oakland, Tim Hudson pitched a two-hitter, handing Pedro Martinez his first loss in three months as the Athletics pulled even with Boston atop the AL wild card race.

Blue Jays 5, Mariners 3

In Seattle, Vernon Wells hit a solo home run and Mark Hendrickson held the Mariners to two runs over 6 2/3 innings as Toronto beat the Mariners.

Devil Rays 4, Orioles 3

In St. Petersburg, Fla., pinch hitter Jared Sandberg doubled home the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting Tampa Bay over Baltimore.

Twins 5, Indians 3

In Minneapolis, Luis Rivas hit a two-run homer and Kyle Lohse pitched smoothly into the ninth inning to lead Minnesota to its fourth straight victory.

Angels 10, White Sox 8

In Anaheim, Bengie Molina tied a career high with four RBIs and the Angels survived a ninth-inning meltdown by closer Troy Percival to hold off Chicago.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Astros 3, Cubs 1

In Chicago, Wade Miller outpitched Kerry Wood and Jeff Kent hit a two-run double as Houston beat the Cubs.

Craig Biggio homered for the Astros, who maintained their two-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central after the Cardinals beat the Pirates 6-4. The third-place Cubs fell 3 1/2 back.

Dodgers 9, Marlins 3

In Miami, Dontrelle Willis retired only six batters and gave up seven runs, including a three-run homer by Adrian Beltre that helped Los Angeles beat Florida.

In a rare show of offense by the Dodgers, their first eight hitters reached base in the third inning as they scored six times. Nine runs matches their best since April 20.

Willis (11-3) lasted only two-plus innings, matching his shortest outing. The rookie’s ERA rose from 2.56 to 3.10, and in five starts since the All-Star break it’s 6.48.

Cardinals 6, Pirates 4

In Pittsburgh, Albert Pujols and Bo Hart homered in the first and St. Louis, relying again on solo homers and Jim Edmonds’ exceptional arm, held on to beat the Pirates.

Expos 3, Rockies 1

In Montreal, Vladimir Guerrero hit a two-run homer and Zach Day pitched six strong innings to lead the Expos over Colorado.

Montreal, which returned from a 1-5 road trip, improved to 27-16 at Olympic Stadium.

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