Buck's big day puts Royals alone in first
Catcher hits two triples, goes 3-for-3 with five RBIs in win
KANSAS CITY -- John Buck doesn't stop here. Not if you mean second base, that is.
No, a catcher known for honest feet, Buck stole the hearts of 11,896 Kauffman Stadium fans on Thursday by racing to two triples and accelerating the Royals to an 8-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Buck knocked in five runs in a perfect afternoon at the plate.
The Royals won three out of four from the Blue Jays and ended April alone in first place in the American League Central, a half-game ahead of idle Detroit and Chicago. Toronto, which had been in a virtual tie with Boston in the AL East, slipped back.
The Royals finished the month at 12-10, their first winning April since 2003 (16-7).
"Playing a good team like that, when the division is so tight, it gives you confidence, but you know it's a marathon not a sprint," Buck said. "When you do play a great team like Toronto and pitch well against a good-hitting lineup like that and execute your plan, you can't help but feed off that."
Starter Kyle Davies, fortified by the Royals tying an AL record by pulling six double plays, got the victory. Juan Cruz converted the club's first save opportunity since Joakim Soria's injury. So there were plenty of pluses.
But the most fun came from Buck's two triples. In the second inning, he belted a two-run triple that bounced off the top of the left-field wall. In the fifth, he drove a line drive into the right-field gap, also for two RBIs.
"I heard everybody cheering a little louder when I ran to second, so I don't think anybody expects me to do that," he said.
Hardly anyone expects a catcher, the traditional slowpoke of a baseball team, to come through with two triples. In fact, Buck is the first Major League catcher to pull that feat since Jason Kendall did it for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Philadelphia on July 1, 2000.
And only one other Royals catcher, Darrell Porter, had ever done that -- way back on June 4, 1978, against Chicago. It was just the 27th time that a Royal, regardless of position, had struck two triples, and the first since Mark Teahen did it in 2007.
Buck, who lost weight and streamlined himself over the winter, doubted he could have done that in his old body.
"The second one I'd probably have stopped halfway," he said.
Only once before did he recall legging out two long extra-base hits, back when he was 17 and in Florida's Gulf Coast League. He caught nine innings, raced to a triple and a double, and his legs cramped so badly he had to supported by a teammate.
"That's when I was skinny, real little, but my body gave out on me. That's the only other time I did anything like that," he said.
No such problems for the 28-year-old Buck this time. He added a sacrifice fly and a double as he snapped out of a 0-for-15 slump. He also took over the Royals' lead with 15 RBIs despite playing part-time as he shares catching duties with Miguel Olivo.
Buck helped Davies get through 5 2/3 innings, an uneven start that began with a bang -- Marco Scutaro's home run to lead off the first inning.
"Somebody told me solo home runs really don't lose you the ballgame, so I'm thinking, 'OK, it's 1-0. Our team's got to score one run to win anyway, so just get back in the zone and go at it,' " Davies said.
He did, and benefited from four of the record-tying six double plays grounded into by the Blue Jays.
"That's only the reason that Kyle was able to pitch as deep as he did," manager Trey Hillman said. "The two key double plays while he was out there really helped keep his pitch count down, because for the amount of time he was out, I figured in the fifth inning he'd have had 90 or 92 pitches because of the lack of command. But that was a big help to us today."
Once Davies left, relievers Ron Mahay and Jamey Wright also experienced some problems. Mahay gave up a run in the seventh and Wright was dinged by Adam Lind's two-run homer in the eighth. That cut what once had been an 8-2 lead to 8-6.
With Soria in drydock with a stiff shoulder, Hillman signaled Cruz from the bullpen. He whizzed through the Blue Jays with two popups and a strikeout, notching just the second save of his career and his first since 2002.
"Anytime you get that Bugs Bunny slider, above-average changeup and -- what does he weigh, 170 pounds? -- he's coming in at 96 or whatever -- I don't know how he generates it, but it comes in there pretty hard," Buck said.
So the Royals finished the day and the month standing in first place.
"Am I am satisfied? No I'm not satisfied," Hillman said. "But considering the fact that Alex [Gordon] went down and Jose [Guillen] went down and Soria [went down] even more days than reported, we're in decent standing, I'd say."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.