Buck's bat sparks Royals' win over Indians
The big biceps get the attention. Now John Buck has a strong core to do the important work.
Figuring a solid core would help with his flexibility and give him more stamina for the entire season, Buck changed his offseason workouts to emphasize the muscles around his stomach, back and hips. The results are hard to argue so far: three homers in his first two games.
Buck broke open a tight game with a grand slam for his second homer of the night and had a career-high five RBIs, lifting the Kansas City Royals to a 9-3 win over the struggling Indians on Tuesday.
"When you lift, it's not fun to do core," Buck said. "You'd rather do curls for the girls, get the triceps going to look good. I really took a look at what was going to benefit me the most from a professional standpoint, from a baseball standpoint and it's obviously was core."
Buck made history on Sunday, hitting the first homer at renovated Kauffman Stadium, a solo shot to kick off of a three RBI day in a 6-4 win over the Yankees. That was just the start.
Back in the lineup after a day off, he flexed that core again in the fifth inning against the Indians, launching a leadoff homer off Carl Pavano (0-2) to put the Royals up 4-2. He followed that by turning on a pitch from Vinnie Chulk, sending it over the wall in left for his second career grand slam to put the Royals up 9-3.
Not bad for a guy who hit four homers in 55 games at the old Kauffman Stadium last year.
"He's in better shape," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "It wasn't that he wasn't in good shape last year. It's just that he's repositioned the way his body's set up and much stronger through the core."
Buck wasn't the only one flexing.
The Royals had 11 hits, including seven for extra bases, and the nine runs was one fewer run than their first five games combined. This from a team that had scored 18 total runs and entered Tuesday's game with a majors-worst .198 average.
Davies (1-0) did his part, keeping it close by allowing three runs on seven hits in 5 2-3 innings. He had a no-decision in his first start of the season after striking out eight in seven scoreless innings against the White Sox on Thursday.
"That is the type of game our team was designed to win," Buck said. "In the past we might have let it go, let it slip, but we expect to win those types of games."
Cleveland kept it close early behind a decent start from Pavano and had 10 hits, only to watch any chance at a second win this season sail away with Buck's slam. The Indians again had trouble moving runners, leaving 16 on after stranding 12 the night before, and failed to take advantage of some shaky moments from Kansas City's bullpen in the middle innings.
One of the best teams in baseball the end of last season, the Indians are off to another brutal start, remaining winless in five road games and dropping to 1-7 overall.
"Not the start we expected," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "We've got to come to the park expecting good things to happen."
Pavano gave them a chance.
The right-hander escaped the glare of the Bronx in the offseason, signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal in Cleveland after four disappointing seasons with the Yankees.
Pavano had a cringe-inducing debut with the Indians on Thursday, giving up nine runs on 39 pitches (one-plus inning) against Texas. He was much better at the start of this one, breezing through the first two innings with one hit before giving up two runs in the third inning on a run-scoring triple by Coco Crisp and Mike Aviles' sacrifice fly.
Pavano allowed two more runs in the fifth: on Buck's leadoff homer and a run-scoring single up the middle by David DeJesus that put the Royals up 4-2. But that was it. Pavano didn't come out for the seventh inning after allowing four runs on eight hits - with eight strikeouts - to drop his ERA more than 60 points. Of course, it was an astronomical 81.00 before.
"I understand momentum and when they tied the game I've got to go out there and shut them down and I didn't do that," said Pavano, who had eight strikeouts in a game for the first time in nearly five years. "I need to do a better job of keeping the ball down and keeping it in the infield."
Indians manager Eric Wedge gave DH Travis Hafner the night off after the slugger played the previous two games. Hafner had shoulder surgery in the offseason and Wedge doesn't want him to play more than three games in a row yet. ... Royals 1B Billy Butler was 2-for-3 to end a 1-for-22 slump. ... Cleveland's Mark DeRosa was 2-for-4 after going 3-for-26 his first six games. ... After the game, the Indians optioned INF Josh Barfield to Triple-A Columbus. LHP Aaron Laffey will be recalled before Wednesday's game.