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Royals 'pen blows lead; Matthews rallies Rangers to win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The 100 or so friends and family who
trekked across Missouri hoping to see Bobby Keppel's first major
league victory had a night filled with boos and cheers.

When Kansas City manager Buddy Bell removed Keppel with one on
and no outs in the ninth after the rookie had pitched eight shutout
innings, they -- and seemingly everyone else in the stadium -- booed.

Then, after the Texas Rangers rallied for four runs to beat the
Royals 4-2 on Wednesday night, the Keppel party waited outside the
demoralized Kansas City clubhouse and cheered when the hard-luck
rookie emerged.

"This is my 14th day up here," said Keppel, a St. Louis native
who labored almost six years in the minors before the Royals
brought him up on May 25. "I'm going to trust my manager's
decision. I had visions of finishing that game, trust me. That's
how I saw it ending."

Gary Matthews' two-run double off Elmer Dessens capped the
four-run ninth inning and lifted the Rangers to the victory as the
Royals lost their ninth straight home game.

Keppel carried a six-hit shutout into the ninth but Bell brought
in Ambiorix Burgos (1-3) after Hank Blalock's leadoff single.

The Rangers then loaded the bases on a single and a hit batsman.
Ian Kinsler made it 2-1 with a sacrifice fly before Rod Barajas hit
a 1-2 pitch into center for an RBI single.

Matthews' hit sealed the win and dropped Kansas city to 14-43,
the majors' worst record and a pace that would rank them among the
worst teams in modern history.

Akinori Otsuka (2-1) went two innings for the win and Francisco
Cordero pitched the ninth for his fifth save.

"Unbelievable," Matthews said.

Barajas knew he was one strike away from failure.

"When the game is on the line, everybody wants to step up and
be the guy that gets that big clutch hit," he said. "I'm trying
to get back to my comfort zone. For this to happen right now is
definitely a boost. If you swing and miss, the game is over."

After the crowd of a little more than 11,000 booed Bell, they
gave a standing ovation to Keppel, who has struggled for so long to
get his first major league win since the New York Mets made him a
first-round draft pick in 2000.

"The standing ovation, thank you, guys," he said.

Despite the loss, Keppel's crew was all smiles when their man
walked through the clubhouse doors.

"My parents were here, extended family was here," he said.
"High school teammates, grade school teammates, family and
friends."

The Royals will introduce Dayton Moore, their new general
manager, at a news conference on Thursday. But there seems no end
to the misery of what could turn out to be a historically bad
season. They're on pace to challenge the major league record of 120
losses by the 1962 Mets.

"I'm not taking anything away from Kansas City," Barajas said,
"but these are the games we expect to win. I'm not saying we feel
like we are better than them."

John Koronka gave up six hits and two runs in 6 1-3 innings for
Texas in the first matchup of rookie starters in the American
League this season.

After giving up a run in the first on Emil Brown's infield out
with the bases loaded, Koronka allowed two singles and no walks
until the fifth when Doug Mientkiewicz singled and scored on David
DeJesus' double.

Keppel had allowed four earned runs in 13 1-3 innings since
being called up from Triple-A Omaha. But on Bell's mind was the
fact he had thrown six scoreless innings in his previous start at
Seattle before allowing back-to-back home runs in the seventh.

"You've got to do what's best for Kep and you've got to do
what's best for the team," Bell said. "In that situation, you
want him to get the shutout. You want him to get the win. But you
also don't want the same thing tonight that happened in Seattle,
when he was up in the zone."

Game notes
Royals DH Mike Sweeney swung a bat for the first time since
he went on the DL May 2 with a bulging disc and said he felt fine.
Sweeney is hopeful of getting back in another couple of weeks. ...
Bell was feeling better after going to the doctor Tuesday with
kidney stone issues. ... Rangers LHP Brian Anderson has re-torn an
elbow ligament that was thought to have been repaired with surgery
last July. An MRI on Tuesday revealed the tear. Anderson will have
to decide if he wants to have additional surgery.