06/21/08 1:15 AM ET
KC crowd sees Royals' streak ended
After winning five straight on the road, club falls at home
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
A jam-packed Kauffman Stadium. The promise of Kansas City's biggest fireworks display ever. A five-game winning streak going. A beautiful Friday night.
Then things got spoiled as the Giants knocked over the Royals, 9-4, obliterating a four-run deficit and shattering KC's aura of invincibility against the National League.
"You always want to play well at home," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "You always want to play well in front of big crowds. You want your fans to be behind you -- rather than another night where we jump out to a lead and we can't hold it.
"Yeah, it's frustrating, because we hear a lot of things, in frustration, from the fans. It doesn't make it any easier."
Keep in the mind, those five straight wins and the seven wins in nine games in Interleague Play all had been achieved on the road. The home folks were ripe for a show of their own.
They got a whiff of the sweet smell of success in the first three innings. Jose Guillen smashed a two-run double to right field in the first inning, then scored on Mark Grudzielanek's single.
In the third, David DeJesus walked and zipped around the bases on a steal, an error and Mike Aviles' sacrifice fly. It was 4-0, Royals.
Ahh, take a deep breath and savor it.
All of this came against Giants right-hander Matt Cain, who looked so vulnerable in the first inning. In his next seven innings, though, he gave up only the unearned DeJesus run and two measly singles.
"He mixed it up a little bit," Grudzielanek said. "What helped a little bit was his wildness. You can't really dig in against him. It's just one of those things. He threw well, settled down and got us out."
Three of the five hits off Cain came in the first inning. After that, not much of anything.
"We kind of stayed away from the changeup, and I just got better command of my fastball," Cain explained. "I mixed it with a little curve and slider. Mainly, I was just trying to get either side of the plate with my fastball and get them off balance."
Meantime, a long stretch of Royals rotation success -- seven straight starts of seven-plus innings -- was interrupted as Luke Hochevar was bounced in the fifth.
"Lack of command, lack of being able to put hitters away and nine two-out runs -- that was pretty much the story for tonight," Hillman said.
Hochevar, who relies on a sinking fastball for success, found his pitches inching up. Not a good sign.
"My ball started climbing in the strike zone," Hochevar said. "I was battling to get it down, but it seemed like everything I threw was up in the zone, and it's tough to get outs.
"That was the main thing. That really was the only thing."
The Giants forged a 4-4 tie in the fifth. Then they really got busy in the sixth. Reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta got those two outs Hillman was talking about, then he gave up a single and two walks.
With the bases loaded, Hillman summoned rookie Carlos Rosa for his second big league appearance.
"Difficult circumstances, difficult situation to put him into, but I felt like it was our best chance to get out of it," Hillman said.
Rosa threw five fastballs to veteran Ray Durham and got the count to 2-2. His sixth fastball, clocked at 97 mph, rose up and was smoked into right field for a three-run double.
"That's my best pitch," Rosa said. "That's why I throw a fastball -- I feel comfortable. The problem is location. I threw up in the zone, and the hitter got it."
Randy Winn followed with a double that scored Durham for an 8-4 lead. Durham limped home and then left the game because he twisted his right ankle while whacking his hit. The injury is not considered serious.
And that, for all intents and purposes, was the ballgame. The big crowd settled in to wait for the fireworks.
At least that part of the show was glorious.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.