Local kid nearly no-hits Royals

Local kid nearly no-hits Royals

KANSAS CITY -- The Kansas City Kid -- or maybe we should call him the Excelsior Springs Express -- did not get his no-hitter, but Shaun Marcum did get a victory.

Marcum, a right-hander for the Toronto Blue Jays, held the Royals hitless for 6 2/3 innings on Friday night in a 2-1 win in front of 21,276 fans at steamy Kauffman Stadium. Immediately after the Royals broke up the no-hitter, Marcum was taken out because of leg cramps.

Marcum, born in Kansas City, lives on the metropolitan outskirts in Excelsior Springs, Mo. He went to high school there and later played at Southwest Missouri State University at Springfield.

"He didn't miss a spot today," the Royals' Billy Butler said. "He's one of those pitchers who relies on location and he was doing that today. He was pretty impressive."

It was Butler who ended Marcum's fling with history, grounding a single up the middle after two outs in the seventh inning. Shortstop John McDonald snared the ball behind second base and frantically tried to whirl around and throw. However, he lost his grip on the ball and Butler was safe with what was clearly a single.

"My bat broke and I didn't hit it bad enough to break ... so I thought I hit that better than it sounded," Butler said. "So I knew it had a chance. I started running and he almost made a dang good play on it. That's why you always have to get out of the box. You never know how close a play's going to be."

With that, Blue Jays trainer George Poulis trotted to the mound to examine Marcum as he had done in the previous inning. This time Marcum left the field.

"I was cramping up out there," Marcum said. "The heat got to me a little bit and I was trying to stay hydrated and not pass out. About the fifth inning, I just kept on pounding through it and tried to stay out there."

There was incentive beyond the no-hitter. With family and friends coming in for his first start at Kauffman Stadium, he left about 23 complimentary tickets but said he bought about 200 others.

"I was going to stay out there as long as I could," he said. "My brother did a great job and I had a lot of family and college coaches that drove up here from Springfield."

He began the game inauspiciously by walking Royals leadoff batter David DeJesus. That was the first base on balls Marcum had given up after 22 consecutive innings without a walk.

However, a strikeout and a double play followed and Marcum launched an effort that got within seven outs of a no-hitter.

"He was just changing speeds," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "He was pretty much throwing the same pitch all night long, like a slow breaking ball or changeup or something. He just kept throwing it and throwing it and throwing it. We just kept swinging at it and swinging at it and swinging at it."

His starter, Gil Meche, got through five innings without allowing a run but he was working hard to do it. He had already thrown 55 pitches by the third inning. Through the fifth, the count was 87.

In the sixth, the Blue Jays jumped on Meche for three straight hits -- singles by Lyle Overbay and Alex Rios and Vernon Wells' two-run double.

"A 3-2 count on almost every hitter. The story of the night," Meche said.

"In this kind of heat, you want quick outs and obviously I didn't do that. They finally got to me in the sixth inning. I left a couple of pitches up that they could handle and then I'm out of there."

By then Meche had expended 101 pitches, including 60 strikes, and Bell waved to the bullpen for David Riske. Wells stole third and Frank Thomas walked, but Riske ended the inning with a fly-out and a double-play grounder.

The Royals scored a run in the eighth against reliever Casey Janssen on Alex Gordon's double and Joey Gathright's RBI single. However, after Tony Pena Jr. singled, Scott Downs relieved Janssen and got a double-play grounder from David DeJesus.

"He made a good pitch and got me out. That's really all there was," DeJesus said.

With the swift Gathright at third, Bell was asked if he considered a squeeze bunt for DeJesus.

"With our best hitter?" Bell said. "No."

In the ninth, Mark Teahen gave the crowd a rise with a long drive against closer Jeremy Accardo but it was caught at the wall by leaping left fielder Reed Johnson.

"I know I hit it pretty square. I don't know if it was going out or not," Teahen said. "But it was definitely extra bases. He made a heck of a play. They were playing no-doubles and that's the only way he had a play at that."

In the final analysis, though, Marcum was the Blue Jays' master of deception.

"Who knows, if he wouldn't have had a cramp, what he would've done," Meche said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.