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Lopez comes to rescue for Royals

4/19/2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Even losing their starting pitcher after
three innings to a blister couldn't slow down the Kansas City Royals.

Albie Lopez pitched five scoreless innings in relief of Jeremy Affeldt as the Royals beat Detroit 9-2 Saturday to hand the Tigers
their 15th loss in 16 games this season.

Desi Relaford homered and Raul Ibanez had a two-run single in a
five-run third inning for the Royals, who improved to 7-0 at
Kauffman Stadium this season and are the last remaining undefeated
team at home in the majors. Their 13-3 start is the best in club
history after 16 games.

Lopez (3-0) was a big reason why, shutting out the Tigers on one
hit to get the win.

"Albie came through big,'' Royals manager Tony Pena said. "We
were short today in the bullpen and he came through and saved our
bullpen. He didn't make too many pitches, throwing first-pitch
strikes.''

The Tigers are 0-4 against Kansas City this season and are off
to the worst start in franchise history and the worst in baseball
since the Royals went 1-16 in 1992.

Affeldt missed nearly two months last season with a finger
blister and broken nail and went to the bullpen when he returned.

"I'm pretty upset,'' Affeldt said. "I'm not real happy.
Obviously, I'm angry. I'll do whatever it takes to keep throwing.
I'm not going to let it get to me.''

Affeldt said the blister developed throwing a fastball.

"I went to my curveball and changeup in the last inning because
I hurt,'' Affeldt said. "Being a competitor, I wanted to go out
there with my curveball and changeup, but maybe it was not the best
for the team.''

Trainer Nick Swartz indicated Affeldt would likely miss at least
one start because he said it takes four-to-seven days to get new
skin over the blister.

Relaford led off the third inning with a home run into the right
field bullpen, his first with the Royals. The inning also included
doubles by Angel Berroa, Michael Tucker and Joe Randa.

With the bases loaded, Ibanez greeted reliever Steve Sparks with
a two-run single.

Berroa had three hits, including two doubles, and scored two
runs for Kansas City.

Tigers starter Gary Knotts (0-2) retired only seven of the 13
batters he faced and gave up five runs and five hits, four of them
for extra-bases.

"Relaford hit a 3-2 pitch (out) and you're certainly not
expecting that,'' Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. "Maybe it got
to him (Knotts), maybe it flustered him a little bit. He started
falling behind hitters after that.

"He wasn't as sharp as he was in his first two outings. He's
not a finished product yet, but has a good arm.''

The Royals scored four more runs in the sixth off Sparks, which
was highlighted by run-scoring doubles by Berroa and Mike DiFelice
and Relaford's RBI single. Tucker singled home the final run in the
inning.

Bobby Higginson's two-run triple in the third gave the Tigers a
2-0 advantage.

"We score two runs and we gave up five runs in the same
inning,'' Trammell said. "We had a little momentum and had it
taken away.

Game notes
Randa left in the fifth inning with tightness in his left
hamstring. Pena said it was not major and that Randa should be able
to play Sunday. ...The 1920 and 1959 Tigers began 2-14. ... Rain
delayed the start of the game 14 minutes. ... Carlos Beltran is
0-for-7 with three strikeouts in two games since coming off the
disabled list with a strained right oblique. ... Higginson leads
the Tigers with five extra-base hits. ... Sweeney committed two
errors, his first of the season.