Saturday, Apr. 15 1:05pm ET
Febles ends Mendoza's perfect game hopes
NEW YORK (AP) -- With each pitch, the roar for Ramiro Mendoza got louder.
Just like when David Cone pitched his perfect game against Montreal last year.
Just like when David Wells pitched his perfecto against Minnesota in 1998.
"You start to think about the mystique of this stadium," Cone said.
Perfect games, especially on weekend afternoons, are commonplace at Yankee Stadium these days.
But it wasn't to be Saturday.
Carlos Febles lined a single off diving third baseman Clay Bellinger's glove with one out in the seventh inning, and Mendoza fell short of perfection in the New York Yankees' 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.
"I was on pace to do something special," Mendoza said through a translator. "I just hope in the future, I have an opportunity to do something special."
On a drizzly, misty afternoon, Mendoza (2-0) went to three balls just once, going to 3-0 on Carlos Beltran in the first before striking him out. He went 2-0 on Febles in the fourth and struck him out, too.
Starting with the final out of the fifth, the crowd of 34,056 roared on every one of his pitches. By then a blister started forming on the middle finger of his right hand.
"By the sixth inning, it started to bother me," he said. "By the seventh, I couldn't grip it."
But Yankees manager Joe Torre decided to leave him in until there was a hit.
With one out in the seventh and an 0-1 count, Febles lined a shot to the left of Bellinger, playing third because Gold Glover Scott Brosius is on the disabled list.
The ball just nicked Bellinger's glove, landing in left field for a clear hit, which immediately was posted on the scoreboard. He was playing in a few steps, not just because Febles can bunt, but also because batters tend to top Mendoza's pitches into the dirt.
"I thought I had it," said Bellinger, who at 6-foot-3 is two inches taller than Brosius. "Just one of those things. I thought I had good reaction. ... I was upset I didn't get it, just like everyone else. If I'm playing six inches to my left, I dive and I'm able to catch it."
It was the type of play made only by Brooks Robinson in the 1970 World Series. Mere mortals have no chance.
"On a play like that, all you can do is stick out your glove," Brosius said. "The ball was not misplayed at all. It was a line drive that he made a great play to almost catch."
Febles didn't think he did anything special.
"I wanted to come up and do what I always do. I was trying to make contact," he said. "Down five or six runs, you don't want to bunt. He was pitching real good and deserved it. You try to break it up with a base hit, not a bunt."
The crowd responded by giving Mendoza a standing ovation. He started for the first time since last May 15 because the Yankees needed a fifth starter for the first time this year.
"He made a major statement today," Cone said. "He's become almost a victim of his own versatility."
One out later, Jermaine Dye hit a smash between Bellinger and the foul line that rolled into left for an RBI double, a play that Brosius might have made.
That was it for Mendoza, who allowed just the two hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking none. As the crowd gave him a standing ovation, he tipped his cap while walking to the dugout.
He remembered how he forgot to do that in Game 2 of last year's AL championship series against Boston, when he came in and got the Yankees out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth.
"At this point in time, he's one of our five starters," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He's very valuable to the makeup of this team out of the bullpen. I think after a couple of years, he understands that."
Bellinger was booed when he batted in the seventh, but quickly turned them to cheers with a single. And in the eighth, he made a diving catch on Joe Randa's sinking liner, earning a nice ovation.
"They expect you to make every play," Bellinger said. "I knew it was going to happen."
Darrell Einertson, in his major league debut, followed Mendoza with 1 1-3 hitless innings, and Allen Watson finished the two-hitter with a perfect ninth.
Spencer, batting cleanup for only the second time in the major leagues, added an RBI single in the seventh off Jose Santiago, and another run scored on an error by Randa at third.
"It was just a pleasure to watch after watching some of our starters struggle to throw strikes," Cone said. "This was just a breath of fresh air."Game notes
Knoblauch's home run was his first RBI of the season. It came in his 44th at-bat. ... The Royals have allowed a major league-high 25 homers. ... Last Sunday, Minnesota's Eric Milton didn't allow a Kansas City runner to reach until Beltran's two-out double in the seventh. ... Kansas City hit four batters: Bellinger twice, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez. Rosado hit them once each.
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