Archive for Saturday, May 29, 2004

Graffanino’s gutsy play helps K.C. rally

May 29, 2004


— Tony Graffanino broke a rule and won a game.

Ignoring Kansas City team policy, he slid headfirst into first base and barely beat out an infield single with two outs in the ninth that scored pinch-runner Wilton Guerrero from third for a 2-1 victory over Minnesota on Friday night.

"Right then, I didn't have a choice," said Graffanino, who was playing his first game since April 30. "I knew it was going to be close. I just figured diving would give me a better shot.

"I wasn't sure whether I was out or safe," he said.

Earlier in the day, Graffanino had come off the disabled list after recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

The first seven innings belonged to starters Brad Radke, Minnesota's 10-year veteran, and 20-year-old Zack Greinke, who was making his long-awaited home debut for the Royals.

Their lines almost mirrored each other. Each went seven innings. Each gave up seven hits and one run.

"It was a very well pitched game by both teams," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The difference in those two pitchers tonight was one guy's been doing it 10 years."

Juan Rincon (6-3) walked Ken Harvey and Joe Randa with one out in the ninth, then the runners moved up on an infield out by Benito Santiago.

"We shot ourselves in the foot when we walked two guys in the ninth," Gardenhire said. "That is a sure way to get in trouble."

Jeremy Affeldt (1-3) got the last three outs for his first win since last Sept. 22.

Radke hasn't given up more than four runs in any of his six May starts, but has four no-decisions.

"I just have to go out there and do my job," he said. "There is not a lot I can do to control the other side."

The Twins were full of compliments for Greinke, who also had a no-decision in his major-league debut last week at Oakland despite giving up only five hits and two runs in five innings.

"He changed speeds, hit his spots and showed a lot of poise out there," said Michael Cuddyer, who hit a solo home run off Greinke. "He was very impressive."

Greinke didn't seem frustrated with his second straight no-decision.

"I was also real impressed with some of their guys," he said. "I was making good pitches to both sides, and they were right on them. They were good. Better than Triple-A. A lot better."

The highly touted right-hander had two strikeouts and one walk, and lowered his ERA to 2.25.

Cuddyer, snapping an 0-for-15 string, hit a 3-1 pitch deep into the left-field bleachers for his fifth home run in the fifth.

"I'd never faced him before, but I knew he didn't walk many people so he would be around the plate," Cuddyer said. "I was looking for a fastball inside, and I just turned on it. The kid was very impressive."

Ken Harvey doubled off Radke in the second inning, and Santiago delivered an RBI single to put Kansas City up 1-0. Harvey, who has multihit games in five of his last six outings, was 3-for-3 with a double and two singles. He has hits in five straight at-bats and is batting .353.

The biggest pitch of the night for Greinke, the most heralded young pitcher to come through the Royals' system, may have been his last.

Justin Morneau singled with one out in the seventh and went to third when Cuddyer singled off the glove of third baseman Randa, who deflected the ball into short left field.

Then with two out and the crowd on its feet, he whistled a called third strike past Lew Ford, preserving the 1-1 tie. The fastball registered 92 MPH, his fastest of the night.

"I just reared back and just threw it hard," he said.

In an unusual sequence in the fifth inning, Santiago was called safe on a steal of home, then called out.

Trapped between third and home, he appeared to avoid catcher Henry Blanco's tag and home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg signaled him safe, putting the Royals on top 2-1. But the Twins appealed to third base umpire Charlie Reliford, who called him out.

Notes: 2B Cuddyer made a terrific play on Matt Stairs' hot grounder in the second, diving onto his stomach to stop the ball and then throwing him out by a split-second. ... The second-youngest player in the majors is Miguel Cabrera (21 years, 1 month, 10 days) of the Florida Marlins. ... The only pitchers younger than Greinke when they made their Royals debut were Bret Saberhagen and Mark Littell. ... The Twins hope to have catcher Joe Mauer back next week. He underwent knee surgery after going on the DL on April 5. ... The Royals put struggling left-hander Brian Anderson in the bullpen Friday. They also designated INF/OF Mendy Lopez for assignment. ... Royals OF Byron Gettis singled in the fifth for his first major-league hit.

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