|04-10-2003, 10:27 AM|
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Dutton: Royals remain unbeaten by holding off Tigers
Royals remain unbeaten by holding off Tigers
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Thu, Apr. 10, 2003
DETROIT - Off for three days, the Royals resumed their unbeaten run through the early portion of the 2003 season Wednesday with a wild 9-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
It started out as a rout after homers by Dee Brown and Brent Mayne. It turned into a near disaster when the Tigers batted around for five runs in the sixth.
And it ended with rookie closer Mike MacDougal nailing down his fourth save. So here are the Royals, bruised a little, but still baseball's only unbeaten team at 6-0.
"You've got to win games like that," said designated hitter Ken Harvey, who had two of the Royals' 12 hits. "That's just the way baseball is. There are 1-0 games and 14-9 games. You've just got to come out on top."
The final out occurred when Tigers runner Bobby Higginson was hit by Carlos Pena's two-out grounder. Somehow, that seemed an appropriate ending for this roller coaster.
"Last year," manager Tony Pena said, "every break went against us. This year, so far, the good Lord is watching out for us."
If so, the Almighty is ignoring the Tigers, now winless in seven games under rookie manager Alan Trammell.
"People are going to see we're 0-7 and think it's the same old story," Trammell said. "It isn't. We're going to keep at it."
The Royals, who hadn't played since Saturday because of two postponements, scored a run in the first without getting a hit against rookie Jeremy Bonderman, 0-2. They made it 6-0 in the third when Brown hit his first career grand slam.
After the Tigers scored once in the third, the Royals jumped ahead 9-1 in the fifth on Mayne's three-run homer.
Leads don't look much safer.
Lefty starter Jeremy Affeldt, 1-0, sailed into the sixth with a one-hitter. The Tigers had only scored five runs total in their previous six games.
So, of course, things proceeded to get tense.
Affeldt bogged down in the sixth, and Jason Grimsley, so effective in three previous outings, just didn't have it. And the result?
The Tigers batted around, scored five times and climbed back into the game at 9-6. The key blow was Ramon Santiago's three-run double against Grimsley. Santiago fouled off several pitches before lining the ball into the right-center gap.
"With Affeldt's stuff," Mayne said, "you don't think you can ever lose. It's odd when things start to not go right because he's got such overpowering stuff and good command.
"When things start going wrong, you're wondering, `What's this all about?' "
Albie Lopez replaced Grimsley to start the seventh and walked the first two hitters and had Trammell thinking, "We've got a chance."
Then came the biggest play of the game. Lopez bounced a pitch in the dirt, but Mayne retrieved it and caught Omar Infante wandering off first.
When Infante broke for second, Bobby Higginson took off for third. The Royals ran down Higginson; Infante wound up at second. Instead of second and third with none out, the Tigers had one out and a man on second.
"Albie was scuffling out there a little bit," first baseman Mike Sweeney said, "and we needed to get an out, somehow, some way. Mayner made a heads-up play and it contributed to the win."
Lopez struck out the next two hitters, and the Tigers never again got the tying run to the plate.
"Pretty wild game," said Affeldt, who recorded his first career victory as a starter. "We have 12 hits again. Mayner is still raking. But you never know what's going to happen.
"If Mayner doesn't hit that three-run bomb, we're tied. But all those runs count."
So do all the victories.