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Ibanez drives in four runs in win over Mets

NEW YORK (AP) -- What started out like a typical game for Kansas
City turned into something the Royals haven't seen in almost two
weeks: a win.

After Roberto Alomar hit Kansas City starter Paul Byrd's 10th
pitch of the game to the wall, where Michael Tucker took a home run
away with a leaping catch, it looked like it would be another long
night for the Royals.

But Byrd picked up steam and Raul Ibanez homered and tied a
career-high with four RBI to help Kansas City break an eight-game
losing streak with a 5-1 win over the New York Mets.

"I remember the last time we shook hands,'' manager Tony Pena
said. "They have a great team, and sooner or later those guys are
going to wake up. And whenever they wake up, everybody better watch
out. I'm just glad that we played them at the right time.''

It wasn't the only ball the Mets hit hard off Byrd (9-5), who
was 0-3 with a 12.86 earned-run average in his previous three starts, and missed
his last scheduled start due to tendinitis in his left elbow. But
with a little defensive help, he only allowed one run and seven
hits in 5 1-3 innings as the Royals won for just the third time in
14 interleague games.

"I'd like to say I pitched a gem, but I didn't. They hit balls
hard at people,'' Byrd said. "I threw a fastball, turned around
and saw the scoreboard and it said 'Changeup, 78 mph.' I thought
'Uh-oh, I better put them in the right places.'

"Then in the fourth or fifth inning I was throwing balls 92. I
definitely could tell I had a much better fastball then.''

Pedro Astacio (7-3) gave up four runs on four hits, and left
after Ibanez doubled home Neifi Perez to put the Royals ahead 4-1
with one out in the sixth.

Ibanez also hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning to help
snap the Mets' three-game winning streak. Carlos Beltran added a
solo shot in the eighth for the Royals off Bobby Jones.

"I lost count at six, but I think we lost eight in a row,''
Ibanez said. "There were some close ball games, some games we were
in right up to the end. So it was definitely a relief.''

Tony Tarasco, who got a rare start after hustling home with the
winning run Friday, homered to give the Mets a 1-0 lead in the
second inning. That was all the Mets could manage against Byrd.

Astacio didn't allow a hit until two outs in the fourth inning.
After Beltran walked with two outs, Mike Sweeney hit a grounder up
the middle that Alomar dove for but couldn't convert into a force
out at second base.

Ibanez made the Mets pay, following with his fourth homer of the
season to give the Royals a 3-1 lead.

"You only get so many cracks at them,'' Mets manager Bobby
Valentine said. "We had second and third and first and third in
those innings. We just couldn't get the runs across.''

The Mets had several opportunities to score, but couldn't
convert. In the sixth inning, Timo Perez led off with a single and
moved to second on a groundout. Edgardo Alfonzo then hit a bloop
single to short right field, but Perez was held at third.

Scott Mullen then relieved Byrd and got pinch-hitter Mike Piazza
to hit into an inning-ending double play. Sweeney finished the play
by applying a tag that sent Piazza rolling down the first-base
line.

"How huge was that? It could have easily been 4-4,'' Byrd said,
praising his relievers. "We needed that. We didn't have to make
spectacular plays; we needed a couple innings like that. The
bullpen really picked me up too. It was just a total team effort.
It was great to see."

Game notes
Astacio had two singles, giving him five hits on the year
and raising his batting average to from .094 to .147. ... Astacio
and Jones played together in Colorado with St. Louis pitcher Darryl
Kile, who was found dead in his hotel room Saturday. "I broke in
with Colorado when he was there, and he was a great person,'' Jones
said before the game. "No matter what was going on, he could
always put another person first. You don't find that too much in
this game.'' ... The Royals pulled their all-time record back to
.500 (2,369-2,369) with the win. ... The Mets are 3-4 in Astacio's
last seven starts, a stretch that has earned him only one win, one
loss and five no decisions.