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Cooper
06-15-2009, 12:15 AM
Royals beat the Reds, sweep series!


KANSAS CITY -- Here's a 2009 first for the Royals: a three-game sweep.

With Brian Bannister pitching eight innings for his fifth victory, the Royals beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-1, to complete an Interleague wipeout in front of 24,525 fans Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals' two previous sweeps were in two-game series.

"Any time we win games and put 'em together, we've turned a corner in comparison to what it was the previous five weeks," manager Trey Hillman said. "It's a confidence-builder. It's still amazing to me in the industry that we're in, the power of a win."

Speaking of power, the Royals got some from Alberto Callaspo, who belted a crucial two-run triple, and Miguel Olivo, who got the last two of his four RBIs with an eighth-inning homer.

The Reds came into town just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central. The Royals had just struck bottom of the American League in a 2-7 road trip.

"We got hot and they got cold, all at the same time," Bannister said. "It's amazing how fast that can happen. I think the biggest change is how Olivo is swinging the bat and Callaspo is hitting for power. It's really fun to watch and they're going up there and having really good at-bats against a tough guy in [Johnny] Cueto, who's got elite stuff out there."

Cueto, whose 2.33 ERA was the NL's second-best, was tagged for five runs. But, ahem, all of them were unearned and his ERA went down to 2.17.

A fielding clinic this was not. The Royals went ahead, 5-1, in the third inning and all six runs were unearned because of three errors, two by the Reds.

"A wise man once told me that baseball is an easy game and as long as you never step between the lines, it'll stay that way," Bannister said. "There are a lot of things that we practice and work hard on and you go out there and sometimes it doesn't go the way you planned."

The Reds got a run in the first inning when shortstop Luis Hernandez, trying to complete a double play, launched a throw to the Royals' dugout behind first base. Alex Gonzalez trotted home.

In the bottom half, third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr.'s boot put Billy Butler on base behind Willie Bloomquist's single. With two outs, Olivo bounced a double just inside the left-field line to score Bloomquist.

And all four runs in the Royals' third were unearned because Hairston threw poorly after fielding Bloomquist's grounder for an error. This was a messy inning with Reds manager Dusty Baker complaining that Olivo was out on a double play that would've ended the inning with no scoring.

Sorry, Dusty. Mike Jacobs helped on the play by sliding hard into second baseman Brandon Phillips and Olivo hustled down the line to barely beat Phillips' throw. David DeJesus scored on the play. Then Callaspo's drive appeared caught by right fielder Jay Bruce, but the ball bounced loose as his glove banged into the right-field bullpen fence.

"That ball went off Jay's glove," Baker said. "He made a great attempt at it at the fence. I thought that ball was gone when he first went up."

Two runs scored as Callaspo cruised to a triple, prompting Baker to fling his cap to the dugout floor. Callaspo promptly crossed the plate on Mark Teahen's single.

Not that the six unearned runs even approached any sort of a record. Heck, the Houston Astros gave up 16 unearned runs by themselves, making five errors in a 16-4 loss to the New York Mets on July 27, 1985. And the Royals once were gifted 13 unearned runs in a 16-6 romp at Minnesota on Sept. 12, 1976. The Twins made six errors but they also got one unearned run, courtesy of a boot by third baseman George Brett.

Anyway, the Royals did get seven hits against Cueto, who ran up 110 pitches in his six innings. For that, Hillman nodded in Bloomquist's direction. Before getting his first-inning single, Bloomquist managed five foul balls and made Cueto throw 10 pitches.

"One of the biggest key at-bats was by Willie Bloomquist, setting the tone," Hillman said. "Several guys had good at-bats after that, but he's a little gnat, he's going to foul pitches off and square pitches up. Just the fact that we were able to get his pitch count up was pretty big for us."

So the Royals headed into Monday's off-day with a three-game sweep to savor. A year ago, the Royals used an 11-4 Interleague stretch as an uplifting point in their season. Now their next 12 games are against NL teams.

Baker had this to say after Sunday's game: "I'm looking at the board up there and it looks like the American League's still dominating the National League. And that's how it's been the last few years. And one thing about the American League teams, they can hit. They're built to hit. They do it different ways, but the good teams and the bad teams all can hit."

So stay tuned.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cooper
06-15-2009, 12:16 AM
Thank-you National League!

ChiefLee
06-15-2009, 10:08 PM
Should have switched years ago!