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Royals yank rug out from under Sox
Ozzie Guillen walked through the White Sox clubhouse and told his team just to forget about it. "Go out and get drunk, do whatever," Guillen said.
Drowning their sorrows in something strong might be about all the Sox can do after Monday's stunning 9-7 Opening Day loss to the Kansas City Royals.
Trailing 7-3 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Royals struck for six runs, with the tying and game-winning runs coming on long home runs off Damaso Marte.
Mendy Lopez's three-run pinch homer tied it, and Carlos Beltran won it with a two-run shot.
"That might have been the strangest loss of my career," Frank Thomas said. "It just felt like we thumped them. We basically manhandled them all day and then in the ninth inning they throw up six runs."
For eight innings, the Sox did thump and manhandle the Royals, building a 7-3 lead behind home runs from Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Lee, a two-run double by Paul Konerko and RBI hits from Jose Valentin and Magglio Ordonez.
Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle wasn't brilliant, but whatever trouble he got into he escaped with three double-play balls.
"I really didn't think I had really good stuff," Buehrle said. "I fell behind in the count a lot. If I have this outing the next time out [Saturday in New York], it's not going to go as well as it did. I got lucky."
When Buehrle came out with two outs in the seventh inning after throwing 95 pitches, Cliff Politte ended the seventh and got through the eighth.
Earlier Monday, Politte talked about the different mind-set a pitcher has to have to close games. Three outs in the ninth inning shouldn't be any different than getting three outs in any other inning.
"It's easy to say, but it's not that easy," he said.
How well he knows that now.
The trouble in the ninth began when Politte walked Joe Randa and Ken Harvey. Guillen had Billy Koch and Marte throwing in the bullpen, and with the right-handed-hitting Benito Santiago up, Guillen went with Koch.
The ageless Santiago already had driven in one run with a groundout and had taken Buehrle deep for a homer. His double down the left-field line off Koch scored Randa and put runners on second and third.
"The pitch I threw to Santiago was in off the plate," Koch said. "It was thigh-high, so it was up a little bit, but it was off the plate. The only way he keeps it fair is because he was cheating."
Guillen left Koch in to face left-handed-hitting Aaron Guiel, who struck out looking for the first out of the inning and the Sox still ahead 7-4. With left-hander Matt Stairs waiting on-deck to pinch-hit, Guillen went with Marte.
"I wanted to get the best matchup," Guillen said. "I didn't want Stairs to tie the game [with a home run]. I'm going to play with my gut feeling."
Kansas City manager Tony Pena countered by inserting right-handed-hitting Lopez, who hit Marte's 3-1 pitch over the wall in left-center to tie the game at 7-7. After Angel Berroa's single, Beltran drilled a no-doubt, 2-2 pitch.
There was also no doubt about what happened to Marte.
"All my pitches were in the middle of the plate," he said. "It's the first day. You have to learn to understand that something like this can happen."
After his first game as a major-league manager, Guillen will be put to the test immediately. One of the main reasons he was hired was to change the atmosphere in the clubhouse. The Royals' three-game sweep here to open last season put the Sox behind the eight-ball from the start, and with a four-game series in New York this weekend, Wednesday looms large after an off day Tuesday.
"That was the kind of game you should be smiling on the bench," Guillen said. "All of a sudden, uh-oh, what went wrong? Wednesday is the biggest game we're going to play."