Royals rock Phillies, 13-4, in home opener

Posted: April 06, 2013

The ball skipped underneath Domonic Brown's outstretched glove, rolled to the wall, and a collective groan christened Citizens Bank Park. Four Kansas City Royals scampered around the bases. When they stopped, gobs of Phillies fans departed before the seventh-inning stretch.

"Once the ball gets behind you," Charlie Manuel said, "the game is just about over."

Baseball returned Friday to South Philadelphia, and the scene was so reminiscent of last season's mediocrity. The result: A 13-4 loss to Kansas City, one marred by a withering offense and feeble bullpen.

No opponent scored more runs against the Phillies in their home opener since 1932, when the New York Giants won, 14-5, at the Baker Bowl, which was demolished 63 years ago. The nine-run defeat was the most lopsided in a home opener since an 11-0 loss to St. Louis in 1990.

A flurry of offense Friday boosted the Phillies to a 4-0 lead through three innings. The final six were ugly. In the ninth, with their team trailing by nine, the scattered remaining Phillies fans waved their white towels. Once Kratz flied to right for the 27th out, sarcasm ceded to disappointment.

"You don't want to lose your opener like that," Ryan Howard said.

The Royals scored 11 runs after the fifth inning. They battered a Phillies bullpen that was advertised in spring training as improved. The same disturbing trends from 2012 persisted.

Phillies relievers inherited six runners, and all six scored. Manuel intentionally loaded the bases in the sixth inning by walking pinch-hitter Billy Butler for the lefty-lefty matchup between Alex Gordon and Jeremy Horst. Starter Kyle Kendrick said he wanted the chance to finish the inning.

"Butler is their best hitter," Manuel said. "He's the guy I wasn't going to let beat us today."

Gordon rocked an 88 m.p.h. Horst fastball to the gap in right-center for a three-run triple. That initiated the first boos of 2013.

Horst stayed for the seventh. He walked the leadoff batter and allowed two grounders that found holes. It created another bases-loaded jam for new pitcher Chad Durbin. The veteran righty permitted a sacrifice fly, a walk, and yet another three-run triple (this one by light-hitting second baseman Chris Getz).

It was a triple because Brown made a diving stab at the ball. At the very least, it was a single, and another run scored. Brown emerged empty-handed and, it was a back-breaking moment.

For Durbin, it represented another lackluster performance. He stumbled through spring training and his debut outing on opening day in Atlanta. Durbin is reprising his reputation as a slow starter.

Manuel said he wanted Durbin pitching in that situation because of his experience and reputation.

"It's usually not this bad of a start," Durbin said. "I felt good. That doesn't matter. It's a results-based league."

This day began with promise. Ten pitches into the game, the Phillies had three hits and a lead. Brown and Kratz blasted home runs off Royals starter Wade Davis.

The Phillies did not manage a hit after the third inning. Kansas City's anonymous relief corps - Bruce Chen, J.C. Gutierrez, Tim Collins and Luke Hochevar - tossed five scoreless innings and struck out six.

Meanwhile, the soft underbelly of the Phillies' bullpen was just that. Horst was a serviceable piece in 2012 but did not complete his job Friday. Durbin was signed for $1.1 million to add stability in the middle innings. All Raul Valdes did in spring training was throw strikes. He contributed his second forgettable outing of the young season, raising his ERA to 14.73 in the process.

A fan base that so often witnessed bullpen malaise last season expressed its displeasure.

"They let us know," Durbin said. "The anxiety, you hear it. You either thrive on it or don't. Four games in, I don't think it's that big a deal."

Contact Matt Gelb at Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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