Posted at 5:39 p.m., Friday, August 31, 2007
Baseball: Twins' Baker's perfect game ends in 9th
By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
AP Sports Writer
Baker entered the ninth inning with a chance for just the 18th perfect game in major league history. But with a Metrodome crowd of 24,986 cheering, he went to a 3-0 count leading off on John Buck.
Buck took a strike before the next pitch went inside for ball four.
Esteban German grounded into a forceout and Mike Sweeney, activated from the disabled list between games, pinch hit and blooped a single to left-center for his first hit since June 16 and his third hit in four career at-bats off Baker.
The 25-year-old right-hander sensed immediately that the ball would fall in for a hit but recovered to get the one-hitter, retiring David DeJesus on a flyout and Mark Grudzielanek on a lineout.
"Unfortunately it didn't work out tonight, but it's still a great game, I can't complain," Baker said.
Baker (8-6) struck out a career-high nine and threw 111 pitches in just his second complete game in 44 major league starts.
Gil Meche (7-12) allowed just three runs and seven hits in seven innings, giving up a two-run single to Jason Bartlett in the third and a sacrifice fly to Justin Morneau in the fifth.
Until the ninth, Baker went to a three-ball count just once. DeJesus worked the count full leading off the game, then flied out.
Baker, who just a year ago was demoted to the minor leagues, almost didn't start this one. He returned to the Twins on Wednesday after spending time in Louisiana with his newborn son, Easton, and his wife. Easton was born five weeks premature on Aug. 24 and is doing fine.
"All I can say is when you have a child or something of that nature, it just puts things in perspective," he said.
Baker's only previous complete game in 43 major league starts was a three-hitter in a 1-0 loss at Detroit on July 1.
Ross Gload homered and drove in three runs in the opening 9-4 victory for the Royals, who set up Matt Garza up for another rough game at home by scoring three times in the first. Minnesota made three errors and left 11 runners on base.
"They helped us, and we took advantage of it," Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said. "We started off better than normal. We've been struggling at times to score early."
Garza (3-5) gave up nine hits and two walks in 5 1-3 innings while striking out six. He was charged with eight runs, though only four were earned, and fell to 0-9 with a 6.40 ERA in 10 career home starts.
"Not worried about it. I'm eventually going to win here. Just keep pounding it out," Garza said.
Kyle Davies (2-3) beat Minnesota for the second time in three weeks, his only AL victories since joining Kansas City in a trade with Atlanta on July 31. Davies gave up four hits, three runs two earned and one walk in five innings while striking out five.
Gload's two-run shot against Matt Guerrier, who relieved Garza with one out in the sixth, capped a five-run rally by the Royals. The ball smacked one of the folded-up football seats above right field that was used the night before for a Vikings preseason game.
"They made a couple of mistakes, and the gates just opened up a little bit after that," said Emil Brown, who drove in two runs. "When we had a chance to get them, we kept going after them."
Metrodome crews worked past the wee hours to reconfigure the stadium for three baseball games in a span of just more than 24 hours. Friday's afternoon contest was a postponement from Aug. 2, the day after the fatal freeway bridge collapse near downtown Minneapolis.
The Twins and Royals will play again Saturday morning, with a first pitch shortly after 11 a.m. local time, to accommodate college football between Minnesota and Bowling Green later that night.
On a sunny afternoon before a holiday weekend with two teams out of the playoff chase, a season-low crowd of 15,736 came inside for an especially sloppy performance by both sides. Because the originally scheduled night game was ticketed separately from the makeup, Major League Baseball didn't consider this an official doubleheader.
Torii Hunter's homer in the first inning, his 27th, was Minnesota's only highlight of the afternoon.