Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2003

George works his magic

Royals top Indians, 3-1, move into tie for first

June 25, 2003


— Only Harry Houdini had more tricks than Chris George, the American League's escape artist.

George pitched out of trouble for most of his 52/3 innings Tuesday night, and the Kansas City Royals won another game in the AL Central, 3-1 over the Cleveland Indians.

George (9-4), who is among the league leaders in wins despite a 6.18 earned-run average, allowed one run and seven hits to win his fourth straight start. The left-hander walked three, struck out three and was on the ropes from his first pitch.

However, he got the big out when he needed one, and the Indians helped by going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position against George.

"That's been the norm for me recently," George said. "I've had a lot of runners on base, but one way or the other I've gotten out of it."

Mike MacDougal, Kansas City's fourth pitcher, put two on in the ninth before getting Milton Bradley to ground out for MacDougal's 17th save in 21 tries.

The surprising Royals made several outstanding defensive plays to improve to 22-6 in the Central. With Minnesota's loss in Chicago, Kansas City moved into a tie for first.

"We know we've got a chance to win this thing," said George, 3-0 vs. Cleveland this season. "We've been playing good ball all season."

The loss snapped Cleveland's winning streak in the division at eight, and the Indians can blame that on their inability to get the clutch hit -- especially against George.

"We almost got him," Casey Blake said. "That's kind of been the story of our year. He had a good changeup and kept us off balance."

Angel Berroa, Aaron Guiel and Mike DiFelice -- Kansas City's Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters -- each drove in a run.

After George danced around trouble for five innings, Kansas City scored two runs in the sixth off rookie Jason Davis (6-6) to take a 3-1 lead.

Davis, who pitched his first complete game in his last start, walked Ken Harvey and Michael Tucker singled before Berroa sacrificed. Guiel followed with a sacrifice fly to chase Davis before DiFelice hit a run-scoring single off Dan Miceli.

The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the first, but probably should have scored a few more runs off George, who came in with a 7.16 ERA in his previous three starts.

Cleveland had two on with no outs and had runners at second and third with one out. Shane Spencer dropped a single into right that scored Coco Crisp, but Matt Lawton had to hold at third after slowing to watch Spencer's hit fall.

Blake followed with a liner to right that Guiel caught coming in before easily throwing out Lawton at home.

"I was surprised he went," George said.

George was let off the hook again in the third, fourth and fifth innings. The Indians stranded two runners in the third and fourth and left them loaded in the fifth when Blake flied out to the wall in left for the final out.

"I needed a little wind," Blake said. "When I saw the trajectory, I thought it was at least off the wall. I was a little disappointed."

George said he held his breath watching Blake's ball soar toward left.

"I thought it was gone when he hit it," George said. "That was the biggest play of the game as far as I'm concerned. That's the way things have been going for me lately. I've been getting a lot of breaks and that was another one."

The Royals tied it in the fourth with three straight singles, including Berroa's run-scoring hit.

Notes: Royals 1B Mike Sweeney missed his fifth straight game because of tightness in his upper back. ... Indians 2B Ricky Gutierrez made his season debut after undergoing surgery on his neck and back in October. Gutierrez, playing for the first time since Aug. 15, went 1-for-4. ... Berroa has hit safely in 16 of his last 19 games, raising his average from .251 to .279. ... Indians SS John McDonald robbed Desi Relaford with a sliding stop behind second before spinning to throw out a stunned DiFelice going to third.

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