Beltran's two-run homer caps thrilling comeback

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The first game-winning home run on

opening day in Kansas City Royals history will forever be etched in

the mind of the man who hit it.

"This I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," Carlos

Beltran gushed. "I'm going to live with this. Opening day. A

walk-off home run. It doesn't get any better than this."

Trailing all day after the Chicago White Sox scored four in the

second, the Royals tied it 7-7 on Mendy Lopez's three-run pinch

homer off Damaso Marte in the ninth.

Then after Angel Berroa singled, Beltran hit Marte's 2-2 pitch

over the wall in left-center, giving the Royals a 9-7 victory in

front of 41,575 fans -- Kansas City's largest opening day crowd

since becoming a major league town with the arrival of the

Athletics in 1955.

"I will never forget that feeling as I ran around the bases,"

Beltran said.

The White Sox took a 7-3 lead into the ninth, but Cliff Politte

walked the first two batters and Billy Koch came in and gave up a

run-scoring double to Benito Santiago, who had three RBI in his

Royals debut.

With one out, Marte came in and Lopez, who had only five major

league home runs in 384 at-bats, made it six in 385.

"I never hit a ball that far in my life," Lopez said.

"Opening day. It's the biggest thing I ever did in my life in


Marte seemed to take the loss philosophically.

"I felt good," he said. "I just missed my spots. It happens.

It's never happened to me before on opening day so it's a surprise.

But I have to take it."

Manager Tony Pena first started to send Matt Stairs up to pinch

hit for Lopez. Pena changed his mind when he remembered Lopez had

faced Marte in winter ball.

"I just called him in and said hit a home run," said a

grinning Pena. "And he did it."

The Royals got off to a 9-0 start last year and won 16 of their

first 19 en route to their first winning season in a non-strike

year since 1993. They've spent the offseason basking in renewed

hope among their fans, who now are certain to be even more fired


"We aren't saying this means we're going to start 9-0 again,"

said third baseman Joe Randa, who scored one of the six runs in the

ninth. "But Mendy and Carlos did something magical today. It was a

feeling none of us will ever forget."

Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Lee hit solo homers, and Paul

Konerko keyed a four-run second inning with a two-run double off

Brian Anderson in Ozzie Guillen's debut as the White Sox manager.

"I started pretty good," said Guillen, the first Venezuelan to

manage a major league team. "I don't know if people think I can

manage or not. I'm going to have people second-guessing me from now

on. That team (the Royals), you've got to pitch good every inning

and that didn't happen today."

D.J. Carrasco (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth inning for Kansas

City. Two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez singled in his first two

at-bats for the Royals and went 2-for-4.

Mark Buehrle, making his third straight opening-day start, gave

up three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings. Anderson gave up

five runs and seven hits in five innings.

Alomar added an RBI single in the seventh inning. He and Konerko

each had three hits and two RBI.

Game notes
Kauffman Stadium has a new grass field that was installed

over the winter. The outfield fences also were moved back 10 feet.

... In pregame ceremonies, Pena was honored for his AL Manager of

the Year award and SS Berroa for his selection as AL Rookie of the

Year. ... The big crowd roared in the seventh inning when a foul

ball off the bat of Ken Harvey hit Slugger, the Royals' popular

mascot, who was dancing atop the Kansas City dugout. Slugger was

unhurt. ... It was the third-largest regular-season crowd in Kansas

City, including when the Athletics played in Municipal Stadium in

the '50s and '60s.