Starting 0-1, and worse, nothing new for Royals OPENING DAY '94

April 05, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

The one thing the Kansas City Royals need to avoid this season is another horrendous start.

After going 1-16 to open 1992 and 2-9 last April, the Royals waged unsuccessful uphill battles to overtake the leaders in the then-American League West.

This season, as a probable contender in the new Central Division, Kansas City wanted to get off to a winning start and stay within sight of the top.

But after yesterday's 6-3 loss to the Orioles in the opener at Camden Yards, the Royals are in a familiar position again: 0-1.

The Royals' ace, Kevin Appier, couldn't find his rhythm and was out-dueled by Mike Mussina. The supposedly improved offense produced only two hits until the ninth inning. And the defense kicked in with three errors, two of them costly.

"Going into the game, we were mentally prepared," said first baseman Wally Joyner. "But we didn't do the job, didn't put any pressure on their defense or any on Mike Mussina."

Once again, Opening Day wasn't friendly to the Royals. They have won once on Opening Day since 1985 and have not won an opener on the road since beating the Orioles at Memorial Stadium in 1983.

They got two ninth-inning runs and had the potential tying run to the plate with two out in their final at-bat, so manager Hal McRae took the outcome in stride.

"You don't concern yourself with too many things off one day," said McRae. "It takes a while for things to get settled. Today, we were just outpitched, outhit and outplayed against a good team. There was no offense and what there was was too little, too late."

Appier is 45-22 in his last 67 decisions. He won the league ERA title last season and was third in voting for the Cy Young Award. He's one of the top right-handers in the game.

But yesterday he gave up a first-inning home run to Mike Devereaux and struggled through five innings in which he threw 97 pitches.

"I didn't feel super good," said Appier. "I was a little out of sync and made some mistakes. My pitches worked fairly well, but not well enough."

Catcher Mike Macfarlane, an Orioles nemesis, tied the game at 1 in the fourth with a homer off Mussina, his seventh lifetime against Baltimore in 139 at-bats. But he also couldn't hold a throw to the plate by Dave Henderson in the fourth, allowing Chris Hoiles to score the tie-breaking run. And he struck out against Alan Mills in the ninth with two runners on and only one out.

The additions of Henderson, who had a big spring, and leadoff man Vince Coleman are expected to bolster the Kansas City offense over the long haul.

But Mussina had all the answers against a team the Orioles did not face during the exhibition season. And it didn't help that the Royals had been flying around in vain over the weekend, with exhibitions scheduled for Memphis canceled because of poor field conditions.

"It's been a hellish couple of days, in and out of airports," said Macfarlane. "I think you'll see us play well [tomorrow]."

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