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Old 04-25-2003, 01:12 AM  
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Whitlock: Teams inventing ways to lose to Royals

Teams inventing ways to lose to Royals

By Jason Whitlock
Posted on Fri, Apr. 25, 2003

Let 'em sleep. Let 'em keep coming into Kauffman Stadium with the attitude that the Royals are supposed to collapse at any time. These young Royals can't keep winning, the doubters in the opposing uniforms must be thinking.

There's no other way to explain the base-path stupidity that continues to benefit the Royals and make their opposition look foolish, arrogant and disrespectful.

Minnesota's Torii Hunter, arguably the best center field in the American League, made a third-grade running error in the top of the ninth Thursday afternoon that preserved yet another one-run victory for the Royals.

Royals 2, Twins 1.

The Twins came to town hoping to snap a Yankees-induced losing streak, believing the Royals' blistering start was fluky and intent on re-establishing a little American League Central dominance. The Twins left Kansas City riding a six-game losing streak and the victims of Kansas City's fifth and sixth one-run victories.

Kansas City has now taken on the entire American League Central, and the Royals stand an astounding 16-3, and they don't really care whether they're the only people who believe they're for real.

"I hope it's not 'til Sept. 31," catcher Mike DiFelice responded when asked when the opposition would fully respect the Royals. "It's early in the season. There's a lot of games to be played, and I knew from the first day I stepped in this clubhouse that these guys really don't care. Tony Pena doesn't care what other people think of us. Some of the players here maybe adopted that theory. We know what our talent is. It's the same every day. ... We don't need any respect. The respect will come after game 162."

Count the Twins as reluctant Royals believers. The consensus feeling in the Minnesota clubhouse was that the Royals didn't so much win these games. The Twins gave the two games away. They let Kansas City closer Mike MacDougal off the hook twice in the ninth inning. On Tuesday MacDougal escaped after giving up two walks and two runs.

Thursday Hunter led off the ninth lining a single straight up the middle, moved to second on a wild pitch and was a bloop single away from tying the game. Why the speedy Hunter felt it necessary to a get a jump on Michael Cuddyer's liner to left with just one out is difficult to comprehend.

Kansas City's Raul Ibanez caught the ball and easily doubled up Hunter at second, ending the game and improving KC's home record to 10-0.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire didn't exactly give the Royals a ringing endorsement when asked about KC's obvious improvement from a year ago.

"They're beating us, and that's a lot different than last year," Gardenhire said.

Gardenhire had this glowing report concerning Royals starter Chris George's best outing of the year: "He was good. He got us out. Tip your hat to him. But we're not hitting. When we face him later on, then I'll tell ya. I'm tired of tipping my hat to the other guy. We're facing a lot of Cy Youngs right now. Nothing against the young kids in Kansas City, but we're not hitting."

The Royals have some talented youngsters, kids who are pressuring each other to perform. Don't think Kyle Snyder's expected call-up from Omaha didn't make George focus a little more, toughen up. George went six innings, gave up five hits and allowed one run while picking up his third victory of the season.

"They're doing the right things," acknowledged Minnesota starter Brad Radke. "They've cut down on mistakes, they're pitching well and getting timely hitting. That's the makings of a good ballclub. That's what we did last year."

And Kansas City's opponents are doing what the Royals did last year and the year before and the before that. Teams are inventing ways to lose to Kansas City. The Tigers lost to KC when a batted ball hit a base runner in the ninth. The Indians lost when a base runner foolishly got thrown out trying to take third base with his team down three runs in the ninth.

And now Torii Hunter.

"Other teams know we're playing great baseball," Kansas City's Carlos Febles said, "and they want to make something happen. They're overdoing everything."
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