CINCINNATI (AP) -- Matt Stairs felt good about his chances when
he came to bat in the ninth inning with two outs and the score
He already knew what this ballpark can do.
Stairs' pinch-hit, two-run homer broke the tie, and the Kansas
City Royals held on for a 9-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on
Tuesday night that simply took their breath away.
"Man, I'll tell you," Royals manager Buddy Bell said, his
voice drifting off in disbelief. "This ballpark. Sheesh! I don't
know what to say."
Unlike most of his teammates, Stairs already knew that Great
American Ball Park can leave anyone speechless. With Pittsburgh in
2003, he got a feel for how balls hit anywhere on the bat can end
up in the seats -- he's 10-for-20 with two homers in his career at
So, when he came to bat in the ninth against closer Todd Coffey
(3-2), he was feeling good.
"You get away from our ballpark, and any stadium looks like a
good one to hit home runs in," said Stairs, who delivered his
ninth career pinch-hit homer. "You know you have an opportunity to
hit a home run with any kind of swing. It gives you confidence."
On this night, no pitcher or manager was confident of anything.
Emil Brown hit one of the three homers off left-hander Eric
Milton, digging the Royals out of an early 5-1 deficit. Brown drove
in four runs in all, matching his career high. He also doubled with
two outs in the ninth to give Stairs a chance.
"When you play in a park like this, you've got to stay away
from bad habits," Brown said. "You tend to get away from doing
the little things, like going with a pitch. You try as hard as you
can to stay under control."
Stairs' homer -- one of six overall -- decided a game that came
down to the majors' two worst bullpens. Kansas City's relievers
were last in the AL with a 5.55 ERA heading into the game, while
Cincinnati held up the bottom of the NL at 5.07.
This time, the Royals were one run better.
"I got those two quick outs and I went after the next guy, and
he (Brown) hits a double," Coffey said. "It was a good pitch,
down and away, and he went with it. Then I threw a hanging slider
to the next guy, and he did what you're supposed to do with it --
hit it out of the ballpark."
Jeremy Affeldt (3-5) got the last two outs in the eighth, when
the Reds tied it at 7 with a pair of runs off Elmer Dessens.
Ambiorix Burgos pitched the ninth for his sixth straight save,
leaving him 13-for-19 overall.
It wasn't without excitement, of course. Scott Hatteberg hit a
one-out, solo homer that cut it to 9-8, Cincinnati's second homer
of the game. Ken Griffey Jr. hit the 550th of his career while the
Reds pulled ahead 5-1 in the third inning.
It wasn't enough to keep the resurgent Royals down. The AL's
worst team has now won nine of its last 12, and finally reached
double digits in road wins -- 10-30, still the league's worst.
But, they're getting better.
"You hear all the people talking about the worst team in
baseball is the Kansas City Royals," Stairs said. "That's true,
but we've played extremely well for the last few weeks."
"I'm concentrating so much on not giving up home runs that I
end up making mistakes," Milton said. "I'm trying to be too
perfect. Two of those homers came on sliders I was trying to bounce
or keep down in the zone. It seems like the more I try to keep it
down, the more I'm hanging it."
The four Royals homers outweighed another significant one by
Griffey. His two-run shot in the third inning moved him into a tie
with two cornerstones of the Big Red Machine.
The homer was Griffey's 152nd since he rejoined his hometown
team in 2000, matching Pete Rose and Joe Morgan for 12th place on
the Reds' career list. Griffey's father, Ken Sr., was an outfielder
on those dominant Cincinnati teams of the 1970s.
Griffey's 550 homers overall ranks 11th all-time. He needs 13
more to tie Reggie Jackson.
The game started with three umpires because Bruce Dreckman
was ill. Replacement Chad Fairchild arrived on the field after the
first inning. ... Pittsburgh is the only team in the majors with a
worse road record (8-31). ... Royals starter Mike Wood became the
351st pitcher to give up a homer to Griffey. ... The three homers
off Milton matched his season high. He has given up 13 overall in
11 starts. ... The loss dropped Cincinnati to 17-20 at Great
American Ball Park.