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08/15/07 2:51 AM ET
Royals 'pen falters after great stretch
Bats quiet as relievers can't hold lead for righty Davies
By Alan Eskew / Special to MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The situation screamed bunt -- dictated it. The Royals were up by a run in the sixth with runners on first and second and none out when lefty David Riske was summoned from the bullpen to replace starter Kyle Davies. Gerald Laird, the Rangers batter, squared around as if to bunt on the first pitch, but, on the next Riske offering, hit a three-run homer to doom the Royals to a 5-3 loss to open a nine-game, three-city road trip. "It was a bad pitch," Riske said. "It was just a dumb pitch, really. Being aggressive, that's the word. If I'm not aggressive on every single pitch the ball doesn't jump out of my hands. "Even if you're 98 percent sure he's going to bunt, you've got to be aggressive. I don't think I was aggressive as I was on all the other pitches. You've got to be aggressive in this league. It doesn't matter whether you think he's bunting or not." Laird's home run on the 1-0 pitch was tucked just inside the left-field foul pole. "I don't think I've ever seen a guy square around and then hit a home run," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "But David did what he had to do. He threw a strike in a bunting situation." Davies, who was making his third Royals start after being acquired in a July 31 trade with the Braves, had limited the Rangers to one run -- a Michael Young home run to lead off the fourth -- and five hits the first five innings, taking a 3-1 lead into the sixth. Marlon Byrd led off the sixth with a double and Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz singled to end Davies' night at 98 pitches. "I thought I pitched pretty good until the sixth inning and then things kind of snowballed," Davies said. "I'm disappointed with the loss. I'm more disappointed I got away from what I was doing in the sixth. "They started sitting on some of my pitches and hit them pretty good. I hung a curveball to Marlon Byrd. The next batter [Botts], I got ahead 0-1 again, and thought changeup was the right pitch. I got him out before with a changeup. I think he was looking for it. [For the next batter,] [w]ith runners on first and third, I was figuring and thinking double play, and threw it on the outside corner and he [Cruz] just punched it through the right side." Davies said he was not spent after five innings and 91 pitches, despite the heat -- 99 degrees for the first pitch. The Royals were fortunate to have the lead going into the bottom of the sixth. They managed just four hits -- two each by Mark Grudzielanek and Billy Butler -- while striking out 11 times. The Royals took advantage of two errors -- fielding and throwing -- by first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the top of the sixth to score two unearned runs. Grudzielanek and Butler, both who had singled, scored on the errors. Butler's first inning two-out single scored Grudzielanek, who had doubled, with the only earned run off Kevin Millwood, who had lost his three previous starts. Millwood went seven innings and struck out nine. "We had some poor at-bats tonight," Bell said. "That wasn't because of the [hot] weather. It has to do with Millwood. I thought he was good tonight. I don't think we had a great approach, but I don't think that would have mattered much." The Royals threatened in the eighth, loading the bases on walks to Grudzielanek, Butler and a hit batsman -- Esteban German. C.J. Wilson, however, struck out Alex Gordon to end the inning. Wilson walked Jason Smith in the ninth, but induced pinch-hitter John Buck to ground into a game-ending double play to log his fifth save. While Davies was charged with the loss, Riske got a blown save -- the Royals' first since July 7. "Those are the situations you want to pitch in, those are the funnest," Riske said. It was not, however, fun when Laird's "bunt" turned into a blast.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.