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Buck's blast money for Royals

Buck's late blast beats Athletics

OAKLAND -- For the first month and a half of the 2007 season, John Buck quietly has been having one of the better starts among catchers in the American League.

His name may not be as familiar as Jorge Posada or Joe Mauer to those outside of Kansas City, but on Monday in a 2-1 victory over the A's, he put a little more bold in his name.

Buck slammed a two-run homer against Justin Duchscherer in the top of the ninth inning to break a scoreless tie at McAfee Coliseum.

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"He's got some big hits for us this year," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "We haven't had many this year."

Buck's sixth homer of the year came on a 3-2 pitch from Duchscherer and barely cleared the green wall in right-center field. The win was not only one of the biggest for the Royals this season, but it meant a little extra for Buck, who grew up about 30 minutes from Oakland in Livermore, Calif.

"That was awesome," Buck said. "My whole family was here in the front row of the first-base side. I was thinking he was going to throw a slider. He left it a little bit up, and I was able to put some good wood on it."

Buck, who went 1-for-4 in the game, is hitting .296 with six doubles and is third on the team with 13 RBIs. Buck entered the game hitting .433 away from Kansas City with an .833 slugging percentage and a .548 on-base percentage. Buck is tied with White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski for most homers by a catcher in the Major Leagues.

"He's been huge for us," starter Gil Meche said. "He is sure surprising a lot of people. [Buck] coming through with that last at-bat was huge."

Rookie Joakim Soria closed out the game to earn his seventh save. After giving up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Shannon Stewart, Soria struck out Travis Buck to end the contest.

"We've played in a lot of close ballgames this year," John Buck said. "We've played good enough baseball to win, but some games have slipped away. It's nice to win a game like this."

"Tonight was a big win for us," Bell said. "Probably our biggest win of the year with the way Gil was pitching."

Before Buck had his moment in the ninth, the night belonged to Meche and A's starter Dan Haren, two of the best starters in the American League so far this year.

During their first battle against each other -- when the Royals won, 3-2, on Wednesday -- they received no-decisions after six quality innings. On Monday at McAfee Coliseum with just 12,447 fans at the ballpark, the duo outdid themselves by allowing no runs over 15 innings. Still, two more no-decisions.

Meche allowed a baserunner in every inning, but he managed to leave six runners stranded. He has not allowed an earned run on the road in 27 innings this season.

"Meche has always had good stuff," said Haren, who saw Meche quite often when he pitched in Seattle. "It looks like he has figured it out this year."

Haren wasn't at his best either, walking four, but he had a devastating split-finger fastball for eight strikeouts and retired 18 out of 19 batters at one point.

"That was an interesting game," Meche said. "I've never seen two guys with that much luck in the same start. It would be nice to face another guy besides by the name of Haren."

Meche struggled to start the game, as he gave up a leadoff triple in the first to Travis Buck, but left him stranded after retiring three straight. Meche also walked two straight in the second with one out, but he got Mark Ellis to ground into a double play to end the threat.

The Royals turned two double plays behind Meche on the night, but Meche got his biggest help from Mark Teahen after Teahen made an error in right field.

After retiring Bobby Crosby on a deep fly ball to left, Meche gave up a hit to Ellis that got by Teahen's glove and allowed Ellis to reach third. But Teahen made up for his mistake two pitches later when Jason Kendall flied out and Teahen rifled a strike to John Buck, who was bulled over by Ellis while making the third out.

Ryan Quinn is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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