Ibanez breaks tie with homer in bottom of ninth

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- It didn't take Raul Ibanez long to
remember the last time he won a game with a homer in the bottom of
the ninth.

''Any time you get a clutch hit in a key situation to help your
team win a game, it definitely sticks in your memory,'' Ibanez

He led off the ninth inning with a home run into the right-field
bullpen to give the Kansas City Royals a 3-2 win over the St. Louis
Cardinals on Sunday. He last ended a game with a home run Sept. 26,
1999 against Anaheim.

Ibanez's second homer of the year, off Mike Timlin (1-3), helped
the Royals avoid their first-ever series sweep by St. Louis. It
also snapped the Cardinals' six-game interleague winning streak.

''We were able to come out and stop the bleeding today,'' said
Ibanez, whose team was outscored 23-9 in the first two games of the
series. ''It always feels good to get a win, but it really felt
good today.''

Ibanez's last game-winning homer was also a leadoff shot for a
3-2 win.

Roberto Hernandez (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth for the Royals,
and manager Tony Pena said Hernandez could have thrown the 10th if
he'd been needed.

''He only threw six pitches in the ninth,'' Pena said. ''He made
some great pitches and got out of there.''

Timlin, St. Louis' fourth pitcher, retired the Royals in order
in the eighth before giving up Ibanez's homer.

Royals starter Miguel Asencio left after seven innings, his
longest outing of the year, with the score tied at 2. He gave up
two runs and five hits, with five walks and one strikeout.

''He's maturing fast,'' Hernandez said. ''He's a good young kid,
a good listener.''

Asencio also threw two wild pitches, the second of which allowed
the Cardinals' Albert Pujols to score and tie the game at 2 in the
top of the fourth.

Catcher Brent Mayne tracked the ball down behind the plate and
dived back in time to block Pujols, but Pujols leaped over Mayne
and then stepped back onto the plate.

Cardinals starter Jason Simontacchi was trying to become the
first St. Louis rookie since Rene Arocha in 1993 to win his first
five decisions. He was replaced by Dave Veres to start the Royals
sixth. Simontacchi allowed two runs and two hits, with two walks
and one strikeout.

Simontacchi said he has been bothered for several weeks by what
he called a ''hot spot'' that threatens to turn into a blister on
his right index finger.

''I guess maybe the humidity aggravated it a little bit,''
Simontacchi said. ''I wanted to stay in -- when things are really
going your way, you don't want to stop -- but in the long run, I
think this was the smartest choice.''

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he did not expect
Simontacchi to miss a start.

Carlos Febles led off the Royals' seventh with a double and went
to third on Mayne's sacrifice bunt, but Steve Kline struck out
Donzell McDonald and got Neifi Perez to foul out to first baseman
Tino Martinez.

Febles, making his first appearance of the series after sitting
out the first two games with a sore back, was 2-for-3 on Sunday.
One of the runs was unearned, the result of an errant pickoff throw
to first by Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny.

Besides his seventh-inning double, Febles hit a two-run single
for the Royals in the second inning.

Placido Polanco's RBI single in the third cut Kansas City's lead
to 2-1.

Game notes
Simontacchi hit Kansas City's Joe Randa with a pitch in the
fourth inning, the second HBP for Randa in as many games. ...
Pujols has scored in 12 of his last 13 games -- 14 runs total. ...
Umpire Derryl Cousins, who removed himself from Saturday night's
game after being hit on the right hand by a foul tip, was the
third-base umpire on Sunday. ... The Royals announced the signings
of three draft picks Sunday: LHP Daniel Christensen (fourth round),
RHP Stephen Chamberlain (14th) and SS Eric Lonquist (34th). ... A
light rain began falling in the fourth inning, prompting the
grounds crew to take up a position behind the infield tarp. The
rain stopped in the eighth inning and never delayed the game.