07/12/08 11:55 PM ET
Christmas comes in July in walk-off win
Grudzielanek reaches 2,000-hit plateau as Kansas City wins
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
David DeJesus delivered a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning on Saturday night to give the Royals a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners. The 23,793 fans at Kauffman Stadium, wearing their giveaway Santa hats, got an early visit from old St. Nick.
Happy Holidays, folks, and Happy 2,000th to you, Mark Grudzielanek.
Grudzielanek got two singles early in the game, reaching the coveted 2,000-hit mark, earning a prolonged standing ovation from the red-hatted multitude.
"I don't know how you could forget that, but that was just icing on the cake with David's two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth," Grudzielanek said in the winning clubhouse.
"You dream about that as a kid -- hitting a home run to win the game. That's big, especially coming on a night like this. It's very personal and very special to me."
It looked as if Grudzielanek's accomplishment would be all the Royals had to celebrate after Mariners closer Brandon Morrow got two quick outs in the ninth. Kansas City was one out from a 4-3 loss and Billy Butler came out to pinch-hit for Esteban German.
Merry Christmas. Butler received a four-pitch walk and Joey Gathright skipped out of the dugout to run for him. Up came DeJesus, and he's thinking first-pitch fastball from Morrow.
"I was like, 'If it's middle-in, I was going to try to turn on it,' and he put it right there, so I was able to do it," DeJesus said. "As hard as he throws, I've just got to put a good swing on it and it's going to go."
DeJesus swung and immediately pumped his fist jubilantly into the air. Trouble was, right fielder Ichiro Suzuki was tracking the ball back toward the bullpen fence.
"I saw Ichiro going back to the wall and I thought, 'Man, if I fist pumped early, it wouldn't be good,'" DeJesus said. "It would be on the bloopers kind of thing. Thank God it went out."
There was no doubt in the mind of reliever Joel Peralta, who was watching the incoming missile from the Royals' bullpen.
"When he hit it, I knew it was gone," Peralta said. "I jumped up and caught it on one bounce.
It was the Royals' first walk-off homer since catcher Alberto Castillo connected on April 19, 2005, against Cleveland. That was more than three years ago.
"He slid into home plate. I remember that," DeJesus said.
DeJesus merely leaped into the midst of a celebrating gang of teammates.
"It's kind of crazy," he said, laughing. "These guys just want to beat you up. But it's a great feeling. I've got to let it settle in now, but it was a good time seeing them all happy and ready to go."
Did DeJesus make it to the plate?
"I think I got it. I hit it and then I was quickly taken away with the mob," he said.
DeJesus couldn't remember having a walk-off hit of any kind before in his life.
"I don't think so," he said. "I think that's the first walk-off anything."
The heroics came long after the Royals had taken a 3-0 lead against left-hander Jarrod Washburn. Grudzielanek and Alex Gordon had RBI singles in the first inning and both runs were unearned because of first baseman Jose Vidro's errant throw. They loaded the bases with one out in the second, but came away with just one run.
Royals starter Gil Meche nimbly danced through five scoreless innings. But the sixth turned sour when Ichiro singled and Raul Ibanez smashed a two-run homer.
"I tried to go with the sinker to Ibanez, got it up and he got it," Meche said. "And before I could blink, four runs scored and they had the lead."
Yep, because Vidro and Adrian Beltre followed with singles and Jeremy Reed cranked out a two-run double. Reed tried to score, too, after shortstop Mike Aviles' relay throw home went to the backstop, but Meche fielded the wild throw and tossed the ball back to catcher John Buck to nail Reed.
Meantime, the Royals could made no headway against Washburn and two relievers.
But there would be a Yuletide spirit emerging in the Royals' ninth.
"When they took the lead in the sixth inning, we just knew we could come back in the game," DeJesus said. "It was a big win and shows how much heart we have as a team."
Ho, ho, ho. Merry July.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.