Royals give Yost first win as skipper
Reliever Hughes picks up first big league victory
KANSAS CITY -- The Ned Yost era began with a victory.
The Royals, in Yost's debut as manager, defeated the Chicago White Sox, 6-1, in front of a noisy Girls Night Out crowd of 27,816 on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. Almost everything went right.
Gil Meche pitched a strong six innings and the bullpen shut down the Sox. Yuniesky Betancourt woke up the Royals with a home run and a five-run inning followed. There were superb defensive plays by Betancourt and Mitch Maier.
"It's absolutely great, we had a big crowd tonight, we played good baseball, Gil pitched great and the fans went home happy. It was a great night," Yost said.
This was a much better start than Yost had in his first managing gig with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003.
"We went like 0-6 my first year," he said.
They sure did, losing six straight to St. Louis and San Francisco before finally copping a win at Pittsburgh. This time Yost didn't have to wait even one more day.
"It was a total different feeling tonight, having been through it before," Yost said. "I've managed almost a thousand games and, oddly enough after sitting out a year and six weeks, I felt strangely at home out there, like I hadn't missed a beat."
The Royals looked like a different team from the outfit that drudged through seven straight losses before winning Trey Hillman's managerial finale.
"Change has a way of kind of slapping you in the face a little bit," Yost said. "Everybody loved Trey, everybody respected Trey and I think it caught everybody off guard. And I think that they realized that there's a bit of a sense of urgency now for us. That this is unacceptable. Ten games under .500 in the middle of May is unacceptable."
The Royals ignited the crowd with a five-run seventh inning that came after a sleepy start against old nemesis Mark Buehrle. The Royals sent 11 batters to the plate and stroked six singles, benefited from an error by old pal Mark Teahen, now the White Sox third baseman.
Five successive singles -- by David DeJesus, Billy Butler, Jose Guillen, Alberto Callaspo and Mitch Maier -- ended the outing for Buehrle. Jason Kendall got an RBI single against reliever Tony Pena, and Teahen's error let in the fifth run. The bases were loaded when Butler tapped out to end the inning.
Yost made a key strategic decision after DeJesus and Butler started the inning with singles.
"We had first and second with nobody out and I thought about bunting for about half a second and I thought, 'You know we've been struggling to score runs, let's try to put a big one on the board,' " Yost said. "And we did."
Yep, Guillen slapped a RBI single and they were off.
Earlier, the Royals were 13 up and 13 down against Buehrle, who had been 20-9 against the Royals. What was this? Another perfect game for Buehrle?
"That was the one thing that was in the back of my mind because he pitched that perfect game over in Tampa," Guillen said. "But he always comes here and pitches great. I don't know what it is. But we got to him."
Guillen marred the perfection by flaring a single into right field in the fifth inning, breaking his 0-for-21 swoon, although Buehrle promptly picked him off first base.
With one out in the sixth, Betancourt shot his third home run into the seats down the left-field line. It was a mere 346 feet but tied the score.
"I think the home run was big for us," DeJesus said. "When Yuni was able to make it 1-1, we felt our at-bats against Buehrle were getting better. The second time around we were able to square the ball up a little better."
Sure enough, along came all those singles, rat-a-tat, and Buehrle was about to be 20-10 against the Royals.
Meche had the White Sox shut out until the fifth when A.J. Pierzynski looped a two-out single into left field, scoring Omar Vizquel. That was all Meche gave up in six innings along with four hits and two walks.
"He was banging strikes, he was on the attack with his fastball," Yost said.
But, because Meche had thrown 128 pitches in his previous outing, Yost wasn't going to let him go any further than the 100 he'd thrown -- even though Meche was ready and willing.
"From the other side of the dugout I raised one finger as in, 'Let me throw one more inning,' " Meche said. "He gave me the headshake no. It was smart. I want to win and I figured the longer I'm out there the better chance I have, but we finally won a game I pitched and that's a good thing."
Meche is still winless himself because Dusty Hughes, who pitched a scoreless seventh, was the pitcher of record when the Royals broke out in the bottom of the inning. Rookie Blake Wood, in his second outing, shut out the White Sox in the final two innings.
A second straight win and the first under a new manager. A nice change for the Royals.
"We just went through a tough stretch where there was a lot of tension around here with losing, losing, losing. It just kind of got in the back of our minds -- like what's going to happen today?" Guillen said.
What happened this day was a nice, easy win.
And Yost, despite getting just two hours of sleep after getting the Royals job, was on the alert.
"My mind was going. I didn't even nod once," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.