Royals resurgence continues against Dodgers

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

By Joe Warren

Nevada Daily Mail

Rookie Shane Costa hit his first major league home run in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie and the Royals bullpen shut the door as Kansas City defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Costa hit a solo shot to right center field ending a long at bat against Dodgers starter Jeff Weaver (6-6), giving Kansas City a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.

Leading off the fifth inning, Costa initially tried a bunt down the third base line and narrowly missed a hit when the ball trickled just left of the bag. After the near miss Costa worked the count full, fouling off four pitches in the process. On the eighth pitch of the at bat, the left handed hitting Costa turned on a Weaver fast ball and had his first career long fly.

"With two strikes, I was just trying to put the ball in play," Costa said. "It was awesome. That's as good as it gets."

Costa said hitting the game-winner fulfilled a boyhood fantasy.

"It's what I dreamed of doing when I was a little kid," he said.

Costa's big night was more than just a home run as he went 3-for-3 at the plate -- his first ever three-hit game. The perfect night in the box increased his average to a robust .421 in eight games since the surprise call-up May 31. Costa, who was hitting .274 in Wichita, said he was not expecting to get his cup of coffee yet.

"I expected to maybe be here in September," he said. "I was shocked (by the promotion)."

Kansas City starter Runelvys Hernandez (4-7) battled through six innings, scattering eight hits and giving up only two solo home runs to pick up the win. Three relievers each pitched a scoreless inning handing the Dodgers (33-30) a loss in their first trip to Kansas City since an exhibition game in 1967.

Hernandez worked his way in and out of trouble in his 14th start of the season. The Dodgers threatened to jump out to a big lead in the first. Hee-Seop Choi hit his seventh home run in the last four games with one out to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead. After J.D. Drew flew out to right, Jeff Kent and Olmedo Saenz each singled. Hernandez was able to get Jayson Werth to ground into a fielder's choice to get out of trouble.

Hernandez also had runners on base in the second, fourth and fifth innings, but forced the Dodgers to leave them there as he made key pitch after key pitch to escape damage.

In the third inning Drew touched him up with a huge solo blast to center field, his 12th of the season.

The Drew homer tied the score at two as Kansas City's David DeJesus hit his third home run of the season in the bottom of the first to give the Royals (22-41) a 2-1 lead. The long drive by DeJesus followed a single by Angel Berroa and landed in the water pond beyond the right center field fence.

With a 3-2 lead Hernandez was lifted after six innings for left hander Jeremy Affeldt. Affeldt sent the Dodgers down in order in the seventh.

Affeldt started the eighth but after a lead off walk to Drew, he was replaced by hard-throwing Ambiorix Burgos.

Burgos, featuring a fastball that was consistently clocked between 97-98 mph, hit Saenz with a pitch, but struck out the side to end the threat.

Mike MacDougal allowed one hit in the ninth but closed it out for his seventh save.

Royals manager Buddy Bell said the close win was predicated on a couple of plays.

"We didn't get a lot of hits but we had two that counted a lot," Bell said. "The pitching was outstanding on both sides."

Bell said Hernandez was still not 100 percent recovered from the Tommy John surgery that kept him out for all of 2004.

"I don't think his velocity is near where it's going to be," he said. "He made some pitches when he really had to."

The emergence of Costa has Bell facing a conundrum in the outfield as Terrence Long, Emil Brown and DeJesus are all swinging the bat well.

"It's tough to figure out who plays," Bell said. "We're going to have to probably figure out some sort of rotation.

The Royals improved to 9-4 since Bell took over as manager on May 31.

The Royals send Jose Lima (0-5) to the mound Wednesday for the second game of the three-game interleague series. The Dodgers counter with Brad Penny (3-2).

Notes: Costa was making only his fifth career start ... Hernandez won his second straight start for the first time since Aug. 4-10, 2003 ... The Royals have won the past three starts made by Hernandez ... Hernandez has given up only four earned runs in 18 innings over his last three starts ... The walk issued by Affeldt was the only free pass given by Royals pitchers Tuesday.

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