07/25/08 12:55 AM ET
Meche shaves Buck, Rays' bats in win
Starter does not allow a run in seven innings of work
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
"I texted her and said, 'Do you really love me for me?' And she asked, 'Why?' I said, 'Don't miss the game tonight. You'll know why," Buck said with a smile.
Right there on TV, for Brooke Buck and the world to see, the Royals' catcher appeared with a freshly-shaved bald head -- his luxurious locks back on the clubhouse floor. All for the love of the game.
Starting pitcher Gil Meche wielded the razor.
"He was begging me to do it. Promised he'd pitch good and I'm a catcher, I'll do anything for my pitchers," Buck said.
Nice little story because it worked. Meche pitched seven shutout innings and Buck belted a two-run double that was the difference in the Royals' 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Kauffman Stadium.
Gil -- the barber -- gave the Royals a welcome reprieve from some lackluster performances by the rotation. In the six previous games since the All-Star break, the starters were 1-4 with an 8.89 ERA. That one win was by Meche at Chicago.
So things were pretty somber in Royalsville. They'd just gotten whipped three times by Detroit. But Meche and Buck stirred up some fun.
Meche's razor work had just cleared the middle of Buck's head -- his long hair still hanging on the sides -- when they were summoned to a meeting.
"We had a Hulk Hogan haircut on him and he kept it throughout the pitchers' meeting. It was kind of weird," Meche said. "Everybody kept laughing at him. We had some fun."
Meche finished the shaving before he went out to warm up in the bullpen. His first inning, though, wasn't as sharp as his razor. He needed 31 pitches to get through it even though there were just two singles mixed with the three outs.
The humidity on the 93-degree night was getting to him. He was drenched with sweat.
"After every pitch, I kept having to go to the back of the mound, wipe my arm, take my glove off, even my left hand was soaked," Meche said. "My tempo was slow because of that. I didn't want to kill somebody by letting the ball slip out of my hand. Once I cooled off a little bit, and quit sweating, I was able to pick my tempo up a little bit."
No doubt about that. There were two more singles in the second inning, but then he faced 17 batters and got 16 outs, the model of efficiency. After seven innings and 100 pitches, he was finished.
He had superb help in the seventh inning. First, shortstop Mike Aviles went behind second base for Cliff Floyd's grounder to throw him out.
Then came the TV highlight (other than Buck's pate, of course). David DeJesus dove into the warning track gravel near the left-field line and caught Dioner Navarro's bid for extra bases.
"That's one of the best catches I've ever seen David make," Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
The Royals gave Meche an early 4-0 lead against right-hander Matt Garza. In the three-run fourth inning, Alex Gordon singled, Billy Butler walked, Ross Gload singled in a run and Buck drilled a two-run double into the right-field corner.
"It was the previous at-bat that helped," Buck said. "I saw a whole bunch of pitches. I got to see everything he had and four or five more pitches that at-bat, and I let my hands take over and I was able to squeak one past [Carlos] Pena at first."
Those runs held up even though Royals setup man Ron Mahay gave up a run in the eighth and Joakim Soria gave up another in the ninth. Soria squeezed off the Rays for his 27th save in 29 chances.
The Rays retained first place in the American League East over Boston by a .001 percentage hair. And Buck retained none of the hair on his head.
"I kept taking my helmet off because I could feel the breeze. It felt so good," Buck said.
Then he headed home for a final verdict from Mrs. Buck.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.