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KC@SEA: Francouer makes two great catches

SEATTLE -- The Frenchy Quarter was no fun spot for Seattle's Dustin Ackley but, hey, the Mariners had a party anyway.

Frenchy, aka Jeff Francoeur, the Royals' exuberant right fielder, twice frustrated Ackley with spectacular catches on Friday night, but the Mariners still had 15 hits fall safely in a 7-3 victory at Safeco Field.

Ackley, a left-handed-hitting rookie second baseman, had a home run taken away by Francoeur in the third inning. Then, in the fourth, his line-drive bid for an RBI double was snared by the leaping Francoeur.

"I'm pretty sure he hates me right now. I slid into second in the eighth inning and I said, 'You hate me don't you?'" Francoeur said. "And he said, 'Yes.' So maybe I'll send a beer over to him and try to bury the hatchet."

Those catches came just two days after he threw out Oakland's Michael Taylor at first base from right field. It's been a defensive doozy for Frenchy.

Facing Royals left-hander Jeff Francis in the third inning, the Mariners hit three balls over the fence, but had to settle for two home runs. That's because Francoeur leaped, got a foothold in the pliable padding and reached high and far over the right-field wall for a spectacular catch of Ackley's shot. A fan was reaching for the ball, too, but if it skimmed the lady's glove, Francoeur didn't notice as it thudded into his mitt.

"Off the bat, when it started to go, I thought I was going to have an opportunity. When you've played out there for seven years, you kind of know when a ball's gone and when it's not. I thought, 'That ball's gonna just get over,' and I just started hauling butt out there," Francoeur said. "When you do something like that, you've got to time it perfect, and I timed it exactly perfect with the jump and everything. I've robbed a home run before, but not to that extent -- where you're way back over there."

Ackley didn't think that Francoeur had made the catch at first.

"I saw how high up he went and I was like, 'Did he really catch that, or did he not catch it?'" Ackley said. "Once I saw he had the ball, I was like, well, nothing you can do now. Just one of those things ... hopefully you can get a cheap hit somewhere down the road that makes up for it."

There was no secret about how Francoeur was feeling about his improbable grab.

"When I jumped down I was smiling so big because I thought, 'Omigod, I just caught it!'" Francoeur said. "Because you never think you're going to get that play. You practice it all the time, but you get only so many chances like that."

Ichiro Suzuki opened the inning with a home run to right field on Francis' 1-1 delivery -- just his fifth homer this season, but his second in two days against the Royals.

After Ackley was robbed by Francoeur, former Royal Miguel Olivo crashed a drive high off the left-field foul pole on a 1-2 pitch from Francis for another homer and a 4-2 lead. So Francis was very grateful to Francoeur.

"I told him he was making me look less than terrible," Francis said. "It was some catch. You'll probably be seeing that on highlight reels for a long time."

The barrage against Francis continued in the fourth as Alex Liddi, Italian-born and just up from Triple-A Tacoma, lashed his first big league hit off the left-field wall for a double. Then Suzuki was at it again, drilling an RBI single to center, to knock Francis out of the game.

Nate Adcock took over and, after a strikeout, Ackley came up again and was robbed again by Francoeur. This time Francoeur raced back and leaped to grab Ackley's sizzling line drive to get the third out and save another run.

"Both catches were very difficult catches because they were over the head. Hand-eye coordination comes in there, big time," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They were both tremendous plays."

But for all of Frenchy's dazzle, it was a third straight loss for the Royals, the second at Seattle. And it had started so well for them, too.

One night after Suzuki hit Luke Hochevar's first pitch out of the park, the Royals' Alex Gordon turned the tables. Gordon hit Blake Beavan's first pitch of the game into the right-field stands for his 21st home run as 14,805 fans were still settling into their seats.

It marked just the third time in Safeco Field history that the first pitch of a game had resulted in a home run. The last time was on July 3, 2005, when Texas' Gary Matthews Jr. teed off on Jamie Moyer. The other occasion was on July 21, 2004, when Oakland's Mark Kotsay whacked Travis Blackley's first pitch out.

Thus inspired, Melky Cabrera followed with a drive into the right-center field gap that fell into and immediately out of Trayvon Robinson's glove for a triple. Billy Butler's groundout to the right side got Cabrera home.

But the Mariners immediately snagged a 2-2 tie and eventually their 15-hit barrage overtook the Royals.

Olivo had a double, homer and triple in his first three at-bats, but couldn't add a single for the coveted cycle in his last two attempts. Suzuki wound up with four hits and Justin Smoak had three for Seattle.

The Mariners had their defensive moments, too.

Left fielder Casper Wells made a leaping catch of Eric Hosmer's bid for a home run near the wall in the eighth inning. Impressive, but not quite in Francoeur's league.

"I saw it drifting back, and he jumped up and caught it and made a great catch," Hosmer said. "I saw the replay and it might have hit the top of the wall. It was a great catch, but it wasn't as good as Frenchy's, that's for sure."

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