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04-03-2003, 02:05 AM
Royals 2-0 for first time since 1979 after victory over White Sox (http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/baseball/mlb/kansas_city_royals/5544228.htm)

By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Thu, Apr. 03, 2003

DAVID EULITT/The Kansas City Star

Joe Randa (right) received congratulations from Angel Berroa after Randa's two-run homer in the seventh-inning gave the Royals a 5-3 lead.


That Cactus League title didn't mean anything. But what about this: The Royals have just opened the 2003 season by staring down Mark Buehrle and Bartolo Colon for a pair of victories.

Joe Randa's two-run homer in the seventh inning provided the winning margin Wednesday afternoon in a 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

Things got a little tense in the ninth when rookie closer Mike MacDougal walked the leadoff batter. But after a strikeout and a double-play grounder, the We Believe Bunch had a 2-0 record and reason to feel pretty good.

Right?

"It's not a big deal to us," Randa insisted. "It's just two games."

He's right, of course. Two games aren't much when measured against a 162-game schedule. It's just that the Royals haven't been 2-0 since the Carter administration. To be precise, the last time was 1979.

"Come on!" outfielder Raul Ibanez challenged. "Even like in '85 and those years?"

Yep, even like.

Ibanez was just 7 years old in 1979. Manager Tony Pena was a promising catcher in the minor leagues. General manager Allard Baird was plugging along in junior high. Randa was 10.

And left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who started Wednesday against Colon? He would not be born for two more months.

"Obviously, there are 160 games left," Affeldt said. "But to start the year on a positive note is good. We like winning. We enjoy the feeling. And we want to keep that feeling."

OK, the 24 years between 2-0 starts are a footnote, and really, just a measure of the Royals' historical consistency of stumbling out of the gate.

But beating Buehrle, a 19-game winner last year, and outlasting Colon, who won 20 a year ago? That's enough to raise an eyebrow or two -- even if it's a division leader pulling the trick in midseason.

"Mark Buehrle and Bartolo Colon could be a No. 1 on any staff in baseball," first baseman Mike Sweeney declared. "So, yeah, we're off to a good start."

And what of MacDougal protecting a one-run lead in the ninth? In Monday's opener, he struck out White Sox slugger Frank Thomas with a knee-buckling slider as part of his first career save.

On Wednesday, MacDougal faced Thomas with one out and the tying run at first. This time, Thomas hit a grounder to Angel Berroa at short. Berroa flipped it to second baseman Carlos Febles, who threw to first for the double play.

"As soon as he hit it, I knew it was over," Berroa said. "It was a routine ground ball."

Albie Lopez, 1-0, got the victory despite allowing two runs and five hits in 12/3 innings. Rick White, 0-1, was the loser.

Both teams scored twice in the third inning before the Royals took a 3-2 lead on Ibanez's two-out RBI double in the fifth.

Affeldt departed after issuing a two-out walk on four pitches to Carlos Lee in the sixth. Jason Grimsley ended the inning by striking out Joe Crede, but the White Sox tied the score 3-3 in the seventh against Lopez.

With Colon's pitch count at 106, White Sox manager Jerry Manuel summoned White to start the bottom of the seventh.

Berroa led off and reached on a throwing error by Tony Graffanino. White struck out Michael Tucker but hung an 0-1 slider to Randa, who clubbed the ball to straightaway center.

"The only time I think the ball is out is when the wind is blowing out," Randa said. "I'm just glad I hit it hard."

The ball cleared the wall. Barely, but the Royals led 5-3.

The White Sox closed within 5-4 in the eighth after Tucker misjudged Crede's two-out fly to right. The ball fell for a double, and Crede scored when pinch hitter Armando Rios flicked an RBI single into right.

"In the past," outfielder Dee Brown said, "we would lose games like this."

This time was different. This time, MacDougal came in, racked up a save and, hey, the Royals are 2-0 after facing Buehrle and Colon.

"We said the record in Arizona doesn't mean a thing," Sweeney said, "and it doesn't. But one thing we got from playing good baseball is confidence.

"There's no reason we can't play good baseball all season."