Wed, Apr 07, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Kansas City receives a Royal treat

AP , KANSAS CITY, MISSOURIAP, HOUSTON, TEXAS

Royals shortstop Angel Berroa, center, is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the winning run on a Carlos Beltran's home run against the White Sox in the bottom of the ninth on opening day at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

Imagine the biggest opening-day crowd in a city's baseball history. Pump it full of excitement and energy and a simmering hope of ending a 19-year playoff drought.

Then, have the home team rally for six runs in the ninth to win it, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

That was the scene at Kauffman Stadium on Monday when the final score flashed: the Kansas City Royals 9, the Chicago White Sox 7.

Mendy Lopez tied the game with a three-run homer and Carlos Beltran won it with a two-run shot in front of 41,575 fans.

"This I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," Beltran gushed. "Opening day. A walkoff home run. It doesn't get any better than this."

As improbable as the victory seemed, Tony Pena insisted it was nothing surprising to a team whose 21-game turnaround the year before produced its first winning season in a non-strike year since 1993.

"Our ballclub is never, never going to be out of a ballgame," said Pena, who was the AL manager of the year after leading the Royals to an 83-79 record in 2003.

"We have the type of offensive ballclub where we can come back any time. We showed that today. It's good it happened on the first day of the season because now our players know we view our ballclub differently than a lot of people view our ballclub."

Trailing all day after the White Sox scored four runs in the second, the Royals started their ninth-inning rally modestly. Joe Randa and Ken Harvey drew leadoff walks from Cliff Politte.

Billy Koch came in and gave up a run-scoring double to Benito Santiago, who had three RBIs in his Royals debut.

With one out, Marte came in and Lopez, who had only five major league home runs in 384 at-bats, made it six in 385.

"I never hit a ball that far in my life," Lopez said. "Opening day. It's the biggest thing I ever did in my life in baseball."

Marte seemed to take the loss philosophically.

"I felt good," Marte said. "I just missed my spots. It happens. It's never happened to me before on opening day, so it's a surprise. But I have to take it."

After Angel Berroa singled, Beltran hit Marte's 2-2 pitch over the wall in left-center, thrilling Kansas City's largest opening-day crowd since becoming a major league town with the arrival of the Athletics in 1955.

"I will never forget that feeling as I ran around the bases," Beltran said.

The Royals got off to a 9-0 start last year and won 16 of their first 19 in their first winning season in a non-strike year since 1993. They've spent the offseason basking in renewed hope among their fans, who are certain to be even more fired up.

Tigers 7, Blue Jays 0

At Toronto, Ivan Rodriguez and Rondell White homered in their Detroit debuts to back the pitching of Jason Johnson, another new addition, in the Tigers' victory.

Twins 7, Indians 4

At Minneapolis, Shannon Stewart hit a three-run homer with two outs in the 11th inning, giving Minnesota a comeback victory over Cleveland.

Cleveland got 17 hits and blew a 4-0 eighth-inning lead against the two-time defending AL Central champions.

Athletics 5, Rangers 4

At Oakland, pinch-hitter Eric Byrnes hit a two-run double with two outs in the eighth and the Athletics rallied for a victory in their season opener.

Chad Bradford finished the eighth for the win, and new closer Arthur Rhodes pitched the ninth for his first save.

American League

AP, Houston, Texas

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