|04-06-2003, 08:38 AM|
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Dutton: Royals make it five straight with 3-1 victory over Indians
Royals make it five straight with 3-1 victory over Indians
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Sun, Apr. 06, 2003
Things are going so well these days for the Royals that it just didn't matter Saturday when they squandered a bushel of scoring opportunities.
They simply relied on another superb start by right-hander Runelvys Hernandez and some dominant bullpen work for a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
"We don't even think about losing right now," said Hernandez, who allowed just one run and two hits in seven innings.
"We're only thinking about winning, trying to stay aggressive and consistent. That's all we're trying to do."
The Royals are now 5-0 for the first time in the franchise's 35-year history. They are also the first team ever to win their first five after losing 100 or more in the previous season.
"This is so fun," said Mike Sweeney, who drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly. "We got great pitching again. We had some timely hitting and scored just enough runs to get by."
Hernandez, 2-0, outdueled Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia, who entered the game with a 7-1 career record against the Royals. But it wasn't just Hernandez. Jason Grimsley and Mike MacDougal each contributed a one-two-three inning that included two strikeouts.
The crowd of 19,912 began roaring as soon as MacDougal passed through the bullpen gate at the start of the ninth inning.
"I don't know what I did to deserve that," said MacDougal, a rookie who has three saves in three scoreless appearances. "It got louder all the way to the mound. It was awesome.
"It got me going. It was definitely a confidence-booster."
The Royals won despite managing just three runs from 12 hits and 17 base-runners. They stranded 10 and twice had runners thrown out at the plate.
"But everybody can see," Hernandez said, "we won again. Sabathia is a good pitcher, but he was competing against one of the best teams -- the Kansas City Royals. We're one of the best teams right now."
The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the first when Michael Tucker led off with a double, moved to third on Desi Relaford's sacrifice and scored on Sweeney's sacrifice fly to center.
The Indians pulled even in the third with a pair of two-out, line-hugging doubles. John McDonald shot one past Relaford at third and scored when Milton Bradley grounded one past first baseman Ken Harvey.
Those two doubles were the only hits surrendered by Hernandez in his seven innings.
"They were the same pitch, a slider," he said. "But it's OK. We came right back and scored, and I had confidence that we were going to win."
Again, it was Tucker who produced the go-ahead run. He found the right-center gap with a one-out triple in the third and scored when the relay throw of shortstop Omar Vizquel skipped past third baseman Bill Selby for an error.
"When I saw the ball hit off the wall and bounce," Tucker said, "I didn't think about stopping."
The Royals missed a chance to add another run when Relaford was thrown out at home on Raul Ibanez's single before Harvey grounded out with runners on second and third.
But Harvey atoned with a slick bit of defense in the Cleveland fourth by starting a first-short-first double play on Karim Garcia's one-out grounder.
The Royals blew another scoring opportunity in their fourth when third-base coach John Mizerock chose to wave Brent Mayne home from first on Carlos Febles' two-out double to left. Mayne was out by more than 20 feet.
So it was still just 2-1 when Sabathia left the game with two outs in the seventh because of tightness in his left forearm.
"I tried to reach back and get a little extra," he said. "I probably reached back too far and got too much."
Sabathia said he doesn't expect to miss his next start, but he is scheduled to return this morning to Cleveland for further examination.
Jose Santiago, an ex-Royal, replaced Sabathia and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh by retiring Sweeney on a grounder to third. But the Royals finally got an insurance run in the eighth.
Harvey walked with one out and went to third on Brandon Berger's single to right. Harvey scored when Angel Berroa hustled to first in time to avoid a double play on a slow roller to short.
The Royals could have had more but left the bases loaded when Tucker popped out on 2-0 pitch from reliever Carl Sadler.
No matter. The two-run lead was more than enough for MacDougal.
"It's like we talked about in spring training," Tucker said. "You just go out there and have fun with it. If you win, you come back tomorrow and play another one. If you lose, same thing."