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.”
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 RBIs 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 baseball.”
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 up.
“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.”
“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.”
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 hadthree hits and two RBIs.
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.