CLEVELAND — What's that line about history repeating? Here's proof that, once in a while, it really does.
The Royals stormed back Wednesday night against Cleveland closer Kerry Wood for an 8-4 victory by scoring five runs in the ninth inning. That's more than notable in itself.
Now add this:
The late knockout came exactly one year after the Royals rocked Wood for four runs in the ninth inning for a 6-5 victory at Kauffman Stadium
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"Really, that was a year ago today?" right fielder David DeJesus asked. "That's... that's crazy. That's freaky."
That's the truth.
The Royals trailed 4-3 when Mike Aviles led off the ninth inning this year against Wood (0-2) by slicing a triple into the right-field corner. Initially, it looked like a double, but Aviles kept charging.
"When I saw it rattle around (in the corner)," he said, "I knew I could take that extra base."
DeJesus followed with a squibber that Wood knocked down, but there was no play because first baseman Russell Branyan and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek also converged on the ball. That left nobody at first.
DeJesus got a single and, really, it was almost possible to sense what was coming. Billy Butler rocked an RBI double over the head of right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. That tied the score. DeJesus stopped at third.
Wood struck out Jose Guillen before loading the bases intentionally by walking Alberto Callaspo. That backfired when Wood then walked Mitch Maier on five pitches, which forced in the go-ahead run.
Maier drew a walk in last year's comeback against Wood before scoring the tying run on a DeJesus triple.
"Another walk," Aviles cracked in the happy clubhouse. "You never want to swing the bat. Let's go!"
Yuniesky Betancourt followed by delivering the killer blow by rocking an 0-2 fastball — a 96-mph fastball — for a three-run double over the head of center fielder Trevor Crowe.
"I was just trying to make hard contact and stay in the middle of the field," Betancourt said. "I squared it up pretty good."
Wood departed at that point and, in frustration, threw his glove into the crowd.
Five runs. So much the Royals didn't even need Joakim Soria for a save.
"That doesn't happen often enough," Butler said. "We've gotten Kerry in the past, but tonight was big. Having any closer blow a save is pretty special as (an opposing) team. They're in that role for a reason."
Bruce Chen (1-0) got the victory. He got the last out in the eighth inning before working a one-two-three ninth inning.
"That was a good one," catcher Jason Kendall said. "We've lost too many of those close ones. Long game with a lot of pitches, but we stayed in it."
The pulsating finish erased had a less-than-crisp prologue.
The first five innings required 215 pitches — 215! Royals starter Gil Meche threw 109 of them, while Cleveland starter Justin Masterson threw 106.
Each managed to minimize damage, though. Meche allowed two runs and four hits; Masterson allowed two runs and five hits.
The Royals regained the lead at 3-2 by stinging reliever Aaron Laffey for successive doubles to start the sixth inning by Callaspo and Maier.
Meche came back for the sixth and, good move or not, it didn't work.
"There are times when you're going to push it," manager Ned Yost said. "His next start is on six days. Going into it, I knew I was going to push him a little bit further. Now if he was on a regular five-day (schedule), he would not be pitching that inning."
Meche started the inning by walking Branyan and went to a full count on Jhonny Peralta before surrendering a double into the left-center gap. That moved Branyan to third.
And that, finally, finished Meche.
Yost summoned Brad Thompson, who limited the damage to one run by inducing three straight ground outs. That was enough, though, to pull the Indians even at 3-3.
Meche finished with a no-decision for a 122-pitch evening.
Thompson got one out in the seventh before exiting after hitting Choo. Yost called on Dusty Hughes for a lefty-lefty matchup against Travis Hafner.
That didn't work either.
A lefty on the mound didn't prevent Choo from stealing second, and a lefty didn't prevent Hafner from slicing an RBI single through the left side that gave Cleveland a 4-3 lead.
That's where it stood until the ninth, when history asserted itself.
"Wow," Yost offered. "What more can you say? Offensively for us, that ninth inning was as good as it gets."
And that's history.