Mission possible: Royals sweep Yankees
Long, Stairs homer as Kansas City stuns New York
KANSAS CITY -- New manager Buddy Bell and his revitalized Royals have swept Kansas Citians off their feet. Not to mention the New York Yankees.
"We played well. We beat them," Bell said. "We did everything better than they did. That's the reason we beat them."
The Royals completed a three-game wipeout of the Yankees, 5-2, on Thursday night as 25,590 watched the rare happening at Kauffman Stadium. This was the first sweep for the Royals in their last 79 series.
Emotions reached shrieking heights in a crowd infiltrated by many Yankees fans during a taut ninth inning. Against rookie reliever Ambiorix Burgos, the Yankees loaded the bases.
Hideki Matsui singled before Burgos, blazing 98-mph fastballs, struck out Alex Rodriguez and Tino Martinez. Then Burgos drilled Jorge Posada with a pitch in the leg.
"I didn't want to face Bernie Williams," Burgos said.
But there Williams stood. On a full count, Burgos threw ball four and the bases were loaded.
Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra, no stranger to a crisis, presented himself. Burgos threw a ball to the screen, but it bounced back right back to catcher John Buck.
Whew! No damage.
Burgos threw ball two and Buck went to the mound.
"I think he got a little excited. He smelled the save and got a little over-amped," Buck said. "I talked to him and he started pumping strikes and I knew he'd be fine."
Sierra fouled off three straight pitches, then hit a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Angel Berroa swooped it up and made a low throw to first baseman Matt Stairs. But Stairs dug it out.
"I had to let Stairs do something," Berroa said, grinning.
So it was over. Not since 1999 had the Royals won three straight games over the Yankees and they had not swept a three-game series from them since 1994.
In a hallway at the rear of the Royals clubhouse stood Bell, backed against a corner by reporters. Buddy Bell, miracle worker?
"Well, I'm not," he said quietly. "I think I came in at the right time. Anytime you play the Yankees, it brings some energy to a team."
How about back-to-back homers to energize a team?
That's what Stairs and Terrence Long did against right-hander Carl Pavano in the sixth inning, lifting the Royals into the final three-run lead.
Stairs, leading off, crashed the 200th homer of his career into the left-field bullpen on an inside fastball. Long, also a left-handed hitter, took note.
"It's good for me hitting behind Stairs because 85 percent of the time, they're going to pitch me the same way," Long said.
Sure enough, he got an inside fastball and pulled it into the right-field bullpen.
Or how about a sterling double play to energize a team?
Royals pitcher Ryan Jensen dropped a flip from Stairs at first base in the fifth, giving the Yankees two on with no outs. Jensen's 3-1 lead was in serious jeopardy.
Robinson Cano's deep fly to center field was caught. Posada, who was on second, fled to third base and Williams had the same larceny in mind, going from first to second.
"Berroa and I saw Bernie tagging so we yelled, 'Two! Two! Two!' " said second baseman Ruben Gotay.
David DeJesus didn't hear them in the tumult, but he was throwing to second anyway. Gotay applied the tag and Williams was out.
"When he did that, it was huge," Jensen said.
Or how about four shutout innings by the bullpen to energize a team?
Mike Wood threw two innings. Andrew Sisco got two outs in the eighth before Tony Womack singled. Leo Nunez came in to face Gary Sheffield.
"You don't even know if Leo knows much about Sheffield and you hope that's the case," Bell said.
Sheffield rolled out.
Nunez, Sisco, Burgos, Mark Teahen and Shane Costa were in this game, all rookies who made their Major League debuts this year. Heck, Costa was playing in his first big league game and got his first RBI and first hit.
"I guess we don't know any better," Costa said. "We're just out there playing."
Bell stands 3-0 as Royals manager, all in a sweep of the Yankees.
"We got some good chemistry going," Jensen said. "One win -- it boosted our confidence. Twice -- it helped more. And three times. ..."
Off the charts. Who would have thought the $210 million superstar Yankees could be swept by the $37 million unknown Royals?
"To have a young team do so well against an All-Star team should make them very proud," Stairs said.
By then, the broom-waving Royals fans had gone on their merry way. Slowly and happily the players filtered out of the clubhouse and headed home.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.