Royals' effort not lacking, but lineup is Without injured Davis, Macfarlane, offense looks like anemic '96 version

April 03, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

There was no gnashing of teeth or flinging of objects in the Kansas City Royals' clubhouse after yesterday's 4-2 loss to the Orioles on Opening Day.

The young Royals -- without two of their leading hitters -- said they had played respectably. They just weren't quite good enough.

"All in all, we gave it all we had," said new Royal Bip Roberts, who went 1-for-4 as the left fielder yesterday. "We just got beat by a little better team. Give credit to the Baltimore pitching staff. They kept us off balance."

Designated hitter Chili Davis and catcher Mike Macfarlane, a longtime Orioles nemesis, were on the bench with muscle ailments that weakened the Royals' offense, so the burden to keep the Royals close fell on starter Kevin Appier.

The right-hander did so with a performance that was eerily similar to last year's opener against the Orioles when he went five innings, allowing six hits and three runs, in a 4-2 loss to Mike Mussina.

His line yesterday: five innings, six hits, two runs and escape after escape from difficulty. He left with the score tied at 2.

"Even in the early innings, it seemed that things weren't real smooth," said Appier, who was making his sixth Opening Day start, a Kansas City record.

"But in the fourth and fifth they got ridiculous. I was able to make some adjustments, but they weren't good enough."

Manager Bob Boone was satisfied with the performance of his ace, who walked six but left 10 Orioles on base, including the bases loaded during his final two innings.

"I felt real good about him, actually," Boone said. "It wasn't like he was a mess by any means. I thought he stepped it up after getting in trouble with walks. He can get out of jams like that better than anybody I've ever seen.

"You get a left-hander and a right-hander up in the bullpen twice, and all of a sudden he's out of it and you don't know whether you can use them. Sometimes, he's a manager's nightmare."

Kansas City finished last in its division for the first time in its history last season. It featured a hunt-and-peck offense that led the league in steals but was last in scoring and next to last in home runs.

But the Royals boosted their payroll and their batting order, adding designated hitter Davis, shortstop Jay Bell, first baseman Jeff King and outfielder Jermaine Dye.

Still, with Appier struggling, the watered-down lineup wasn't enough against Orioles starter Jimmy Key and a succession of hard-throwing relievers.

Appier said: "I didn't throw bad. But at the time it wasn't good because we were behind. The team picked me up. Unfortunately, I didn't pitch good enough."

Cal Ripken hit a home run in the fourth inning to start the scoring and finished 3-for-3 against Appier. Ripken is 17-for-45 (.378) in his career against Appier.

"He got me today. Hopefully, I can switch it around," Appier said. "I'll have to figure a way I can change that."

Appier also had problems with the mound, which may have contributed to his mechanical trouble.

"I wound up with this big hole and hitting my back spike," he said. "I was lunging forward with every pitch and wound up on my heel. My shoulder tended to go out. They finally filled [the hole] up."

The Orioles scratched out what proved to be the winning run against the Kansas City bullpen in the sixth, but the Royals played excellent defense to stay close.

Center fielder Tom Goodwin made a leaping grab, extending his glove over the fence, to rob Eric Davis of a potential home run in the eighth inning. Right fielder Dye threw out Jeff Reboulet at the plate in the seventh. Bell made a diving stop on Mike Bordick's ground ball in the third to force Brady Anderson at second.

"I would have liked a couple more hits to fall," Boone said. "But they brought in guys throwing very good. I was pleased. I thought we gave them a good battle."

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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