KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- As the victories pile up, it's getting tougher and tougher for Buddy Bell to deflect the credit away from himself and toward his team.
Matt Stairs homered, Runelvys Hernandez pitched six solid innings and the bottom-feeding Kansas City Royals beat the Texas Rangers 2-1 on Friday night for their first four-game winning streak in 21 months.All four have come under Bell, who was named manager on Tuesday just a few hours before the Royals launched this surge with the first win in a stunning three-game sweep of the Yankees."To be honest with you, I really haven't done a whole lot," said Bell, who was bench coach at Cleveland before taking over the team with the worst record in the majors."I enjoy being here. Maybe they like the smile on my face every once in a while," he said.Bell joined Whitey Herzog as the only Royals skippers to win their first four games. Herzog did it after taking over midway through 1975, the year before the team began a prosperous 10-season run that included six division titles and the 1985 World Series
championship."I felt like this team was due for something like this to happen," said catcher John Buck, whose soft flare to left drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh."Buddy coming in here just completed that. Whether he gave us a final little nudge, someone coming from outside, seeing what's going on in the clubhouse and saying, 'You know what -- you guys aren't that bad off. You ain't that far off.' Maybe that was what we needed to get us over the hump," he said.Rookie left-hander Andrew Sisco (1-1) got his first major-league win with 1 1/3 innings of relief. Mike MacDougal, whom Bell selected as his closer, pitched the ninth for his fifth save in
seven opportunities.Pedro Astacio (2-6) was almost as sharp, going seven innings and allowing only two runs on seven hits.But against the high-scoring Yankees and Rangers, the Royals have given up only seven runs during the streak."Good pitching got good hitting tonight," Texas DH David Dellucci said. "Pedro threw great. Their pitcher pitched his game plan and stuck with what he's been doing of late."With the potential tying run at second, Emil Brown made a great shoestring catch for the last out in the ninth. A week ago when the Royals were losing 37 of their first 50 games, that ball probably would have rolled all the way to the wall."They made some good plays," said Buck Showalter, whose team swept the Royals last week but became the last club in the majors to lose three straight."Astacio was outstanding again," Showalter said. "We just didn't do much offensively. They pitched real well out of their bullpen, especially Sisco. He's having a heck of a year for them."Stairs hit a 1-0 pitch from Astacio (2-6) over the fence in left leading off the second inning for his seventh home run and second in two games.Hernandez, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, gave up only three hits and one run in six innings, with five walks and three strikeouts."We're more excited to play every day and excited to win," Hernandez said of Bell's effect on the team."We've been working really hard," he said. "If we keep doing what we're doing right now, we're going to give a little surprise to people."It was tied at 1 when Mark Teahen singled leading off the seventh, went to third on a single by Shane Costa and scored the tiebreaking run when Buck dropped a soft single into left field.Michael Young, who stretched his hitting streak to 13 games, singled leading off the fourth and scored on Alfonso Soriano's single.
Showalter and several players took a trip to the Negro Leagues Museum on Friday. "It is fascinating," Showalter said. "I didn't realize they played a lot of their games in major-league stadiums." ... Infielder Billy Butler, one of the Royals' top minor-league prospects, got hit on the hand by a pitch at Class-A High Desert and will be out at least two weeks. ... The Royals are expected to bring left-hander Jeremy Affeldt off the DL this weekend. He's been gone since mid-April with a left groin strain.