|Tampa Bay (59-42)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||2||8||0|
|Kansas City (46-57) «||1||0||0||3||0||0||0||0||x||4||10||0|
Buck lived up to his end of the bargain. He has the shiny dome and razor burns to prove it.
Meche followed through, too, though it took a little longer.
Meche pitched seven scoreless innings after a shaky start and Buck drove in two runs after his pregame haircut, helping the Kansas City Royals hold off Tampa Bay 4-2 Thursday night to extend the AL East-leading Rays' road losing streak to seven games.
"He was begging to do it, promised me he'd pitch good, and I'm a catcher, I'll do anything to help a pitcher," said Buck, who opted to keep his goatee to offset the clean pate. "He kept his promise."
It didn't look like he would at first.
Bothered by sweat on his arms and hands from the humidity, Meche (8-9) had a miserable first inning, needing 26 minutes and 31 pitches to get out of it. He did it without giving up a run, though, getting Carlos Pena to fly out with runners on first and third.
Meche had a few more problems in the second inning, giving up two more singles, then got into a rhythm -- and his arms dry -- not allowing a runner past first base the rest of the way.
The right-hander gave up five hits and walked one, beating an AL East team for the first time in seven starts this season.
He had some help, too.
Royals shortstop Mike Aviles ranged far to rob Cliff Floyd of a single, then left fielder David DeJesus took extra bases away from Dioner Navarro with a sprawling catch down the line four pitches later.
"He didn't start off very good, obviously, way too many pitches, having trouble putting hitters away," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "It was really impressive to see him make up for it, getting ahead in the count and staying ahead. It took him three to get it going, but he stuck with it once he got it going."
Kansas City appeared well on its way to ending a four-game home losing streak after taking a 4-0 lead into the eighth inning. Then it started raining and things got interesting.
Tampa Bay cut the lead to 4-1 on B.J. Upton's RBI groundout off Ron Mahay. Evan Longoria led off the ninth by hitting Joakim Soria's first pitch down the line in left for a double. Carlos Pena followed with a single and Floyd made it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly.
That was it for the Rays, though. Soria got Navarro to ground into fielder's choice, then ended the game by striking out Eric Hinske for his 27th save in 29 chances.
Tampa Bay is hitting .191 with runners in scoring position in its last 14 games, including 1-for-5 Thursday night.
"We were trying to get it done all at once," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "More than anything, I would just like to see us get back to our line-drive approach and it's going to happen."
Rays starter Matt Garza (8-6) was coming off a solid outing, allowing two hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings against Toronto.
But he had to follow it with a game against Kansas City, a team he can't seem to beat no matter what he does.
The right-hander entered with a respectable 3.42 ERA in four career starts against the Royals, but was 0-3. Garza's tough luck against the Royals continued on a steamy night at Kaufman Stadium, where he allowed four runs and eight hits and walked four in five innings.
"I just kind of felt out of whack," said Garza, who had no strikeouts for the first time in 45 career games. "It was weird that I couldn't find a rhythm."
That was all Meche needed to get comfortable and live up to his promise to Buck.
"I told him after the game, his head's staying like that for a while," Meche said. "We're going to keep shaving that head every fifth day. It was a fun day. I think he looks pretty good like that."
|The Royals can finally celebrate at home after ending their four-game skid at Kauffman Stadium. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Akinori Iwamura, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||0||4||.274|
|B.J. Upton, CF||4||0||0||1||0||0||0||.269|
|Carl Crawford, LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.268|
|Evan Longoria, 3B||3||1||2||0||1||0||0||.276|
|Carlos Pena, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||2||3||.230|
|Cliff Floyd, DH||3||0||0||1||0||0||0||.252|
|Dioner Navarro, C||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.313|
|Eric Hinske, RF||4||0||0||0||0||3||2||.255|
|Jason Bartlett, SS||3||1||3||0||0||0||0||.264|
|2B - Evan Longoria (24, Soria), Jason Bartlett (9, Mahay)|
|SF - Cliff Floyd (2)|
|RBI - B.J. Upton (45), Cliff Floyd (20)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|DP - Longoria-Iwamura-Pena, Bartlett-Iwamura-Pena|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Matt Garza (L,8-6)||5||8||4||4||4||0||0||3.83|
|Pitches-Strikes - Matt Garza 82-46, J.P. Howell 20-12, Grant Balfour 10-8, Dan Wheeler 10-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Matt Garza 6-7|
|Batters Faced - Matt Garza 25, J.P. Howell 4, Grant Balfour 3, Dan Wheeler 4|
|Kansas City Royals|
|David DeJesus, LF||3||1||2||0||1||0||2||.308|
|Mike Aviles, SS||4||0||1||0||0||1||4||.312|
|Mark Grudzielanek, 2B||3||0||0||1||0||0||2||.305|
|Jose Guillen, RF||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.262|
|Alex Gordon, 3B||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||.251|
|Billy Butler, DH||2||1||1||0||2||0||0||.253|
|Ross Gload, 1B||4||1||2||1||0||0||3||.263|
|John Buck, C||3||0||1||2||1||1||1||.252|
|Mitch Maier, CF||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.250|
|2B - David DeJesus (16, Howell), Alex Gordon (24, Garza), Ross Gload (12, Wheeler), John Buck (17, Garza)|
|SF - Mark Grudzielanek (1)|
|RBI - Mark Grudzielanek (23), Ross Gload (23), John Buck 2 (33)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - Grudzielanek-Aviles-Gload|
|Kansas City Royals|
|Gil Meche (W,8-9)||7||5||0||0||1||4||0||4.31|
|Joakim Soria (S,27)||1||2||1||1||0||1||0||1.60|
|Pitches-Strikes - Gil Meche 100-63, Ron Mahay 22-12, Joakim Soria 13-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Gil Meche 6-10, Ron Mahay 2-1, Joakim Soria 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Gil Meche 26, Ron Mahay 4, Joakim Soria 5|
|Attendance - 25900|
|Game Time - 2:45|
|Temperature - 93|
|Umpires - Home - Tom Hallion, First Base - Jerry Crawford, Second Base - Paul Nauert, Third Base - Brian O'Nora|