Royals finally suffer first loss

Monday, April 14, 2003

CLEVELAND -- The Kansas City Royals want to remember their winning streak -- and vow not to forget Ricardo Rodriguez.

The Royals lost for the first time this season, ending baseball's best start in 13 years as Rodriguez pitched the Cleveland Indians to a 6-1 win Sunday and strained some relations along the way with a handful of flamboyant gestures.

"Hopefully, he'll be around the next time we face them," Royals outfielder Michael Tucker said.

The Royals, the first club to start 9-0 since the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, claim Rodriguez tried to show them up.

Instead, he kept Kansas City from becoming the eighth team in history to open at 10-0, and first since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers started 13-0.

"I just hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did," Kansas City manager Tony Pena said of the streak, which tied for the fifth-longest overall in team history.

Milton Bradley had four hits, including his second homer for Cleveland -- and took a few verbal swipes at the Royals, too.

"We brought them down to earth a little, burst their bubble," Bradley said. "They wanted to fight, so I tried to beat them with my bat and glove."

Rodriguez (2-0) allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings, and the rookie right-hander rankled the Royals with his flashy attitude.

"If that's how he wants to come into the league, fine," Tucker said. "I'd like to see him do it when he has 20 wins. If he ever lasts that long."

Rodriguez hit Carlos Febles in the left arm with a pitch in the second inning and Mike DiFelice followed with a single to load the bases. Then Rodriguez struck out Tucker to end the threat -- and fuel the Royals' ire as he pumped his fist wildly in celebration.

"First, I didn't want to hit anybody," Rodriguez said. "I never do.

"But it was a tough spot, bases loaded, and I was excited, real excited. They had that winning streak and maybe that was 75 percent of it. I told myself all day I wanted to beat them."

Royals starter Darrell May's first pitch in the bottom of the second was behind Brandon Phillips, and plate umpire Tim Timmons warned both managers. Players from both teams came out of the dugouts to yell at each other.

"I wasn't surprised," May said of the warning. "It got me fired up after being in the bullpen for 15 days and helped me."

Bradley saw it otherwise.

"I just think it was gutless," he said. "I yelled at them, 'Why throw at the kid? Come after me, I'll take the battle scars for this team.' "

Rodriguez was even more animated in the fourth. The Royals got three singles to again load the bases. This time, the right-hander got Tucker to ground into an inning-ending double play, then wildly gyrated in Tucker's direction.

"Same thing, just happy I got out of it," said Rodriguez, who claimed he did not hear Kansas City players yelling at him.

Jose Santiago pitched the eighth and Danys Baez the ninth for Cleveland, which broke a three-game losing streak.

Bradley, who has hit in all 11 games, triggered a five-hit, three-run first inning with a sharp single to left off May (0-1).

Bradley went to second on a one-out single by Ellis Burks and scored on another single by Shane Spencer. The runners moved up on a groundout and both scored on a single by Josh Bard to make it 3-0.

Raul Ibanez made it 3-1 in the Royals fifth with his third homer in four days, a 419-foot shot to right.

With runners on first and third and two outs later in the inning, Rodriguez simply got lucky. Mendy Lopez hit a grounder that glanced off the glove of diving third baseman Casey Blake. The ball caromed toward shortstop Omar Vizquel, who reversed his momentum, grabbed the rebound and tossed to second for the force.

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