CINCINNATI -- Matt Stairs felt good about his chances when he came to bat in the ninth inning with two outs and the score tied.
He already knew what this ballpark can do.
"Man, I'll tell you," Royals manager Buddy Bell said, his voice drifting off in disbelief. "This ballpark. Sheesh! I don't know what to say."
Unlike most of his teammates, Stairs already knew that Great American Ball Park can leave anyone speechless. With Pittsburgh in 2003, he got a feel for how balls hit anywhere on the bat can end up in the seats -- he's 10-for-20 with two homers in his career at the place.
So, when he came to bat in the ninth against closer Todd Coffey (3-2), he was feeling good.
"You get away from our ballpark, and any stadium looks like a good one to hit home runs in," said Stairs, who delivered his ninth career pinch-hit homer. "You know you have an opportunity to hit a home run with any kind of swing. It gives you confidence."
On this night, no pitcher or manager was confident of anything.
Emil Brown hit one of the three homers off left-hander Eric Milton, digging the Royals out of an early 5-1 deficit. Brown drove in four runs in all, matching his career high. He also doubled with two outs in the ninth to give Stairs a chance.
"When you play in a park like this, you've got to stay away from bad habits," Brown said. "You tend to get away from doing the little things, like going with a pitch. You try as hard as you can to stay under control."
Stairs' homer -- one of six overall -- decided a game that came down to the majors' two worst bullpens. Kansas City's relievers were last in the AL with a 5.55 ERA heading into the game, while Cincinnati held up the bottom of the NL at 5.07.
This time, the Royals were one run better.
"I got those two quick outs and I went after the next guy, and he (Brown) hits a double," Coffey said. "It was a good pitch, down and away, and he went with it. Then I threw a hanging slider to the next guy, and he did what you're supposed to do with it -- hit it out of the ballpark."
Jeremy Affeldt (3-5) got the last two outs in the eighth, when the Reds tied it at 7 with a pair of runs off Elmer Dessens. Ambiorix Burgos pitched the ninth for his sixth straight save, leaving him 13-for-19 overall.
It wasn't without excitement, of course. Scott Hatteberg hit a one-out, solo homer that cut it to 9-8, Cincinnati's second homer of the game. Ken Griffey Jr. hit the 550th of his career while the Reds pulled ahead 5-1 in the third inning.
It wasn't enough to keep the resurgent Royals down. The AL's worst team has now won nine of its last 12, and finally reached double digits in road wins -- 10-30, still the league's worst.
But, they're getting better.
"You hear all the people talking about the worst team in baseball is the Kansas City Royals," Stairs said. "That's true, but we've played extremely well for the last few weeks."
John Buck and David DeJesus also homered off Milton, who failed to hold the early 5-1 lead because of his propensity to give up homers. The left-hander led the majors by allowing 40 last season.
"I'm concentrating so much on not giving up home runs that I end up making mistakes," Milton said. "I'm trying to be too perfect. Two of those homers came on sliders I was trying to bounce or keep down in the zone. It seems like the more I try to keep it down, the more I'm hanging it."
The four Royals homers outweighed another significant one by Griffey. His two-run shot in the third inning moved him into a tie with two cornerstones of the Big Red Machine.
The homer was Griffey's 152nd since he rejoined his hometown team in 2000, matching Pete Rose and Joe Morgan for 12th place on the Reds' career list. Griffey's father, Ken Sr., was an outfielder on those dominant Cincinnati teams of the 1970s.
Griffey's 550 homers overall ranks 11th all-time. He needs 13 more to tie Reggie Jackson.
The game started with three umpires because Bruce Dreckman was ill. Replacement Chad Fairchild arrived on the field after the first inning. ... Pittsburgh is the only team in the majors with a worse road record (8-31). ... Royals starter Mike Wood became the 351st pitcher to give up a homer to Griffey. ... The three homers off Milton matched his season high. He has given up 13 overall in 11 starts. ... The loss dropped Cincinnati to 17-20 at Great American Ball Park.