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Marcum flirts with history in hometown

Marcum flirts with history in victory

KANSAS CITY -- Shaun Marcum, a native of Excelsior Springs, Mo., grew up cheering for the Royals. On Friday, the 25-year-old Marcum returned home for his first career start in Kansas City against his favorite team.

And he provided a memorable evening for hundreds of Marcum fans in attendance.

Marcum tossed a no-hitter for 6 2/3 innings before leaving with leg cramps -- and to a standing ovation from the 21,276 fans. He eventually earned the win in a 2-1 victory.

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"He was outstanding," manager John Gibbons said.

At first, it was only 25 friends and family. But Marcum's brother organized a massive campaign that eventually brought 200-plus friends, family, and baseball coaches from his college, Missouri State, to Kauffman Stadium.

"It was nice to have support," Marcum said. "My brother did a great job."

Marcum, one of the best pitchers in baseball the last three months, went two outs farther than his May 13 start against Tampa Bay. That outing, his first as a starter this season, yielded six no-hit innings. However, Marcum was pulled because he reached his pitch count.

On Friday, Billy Butler and cramps ended Marcum's no-hit bid. Marcum started feeling cramps in the fifth inning on a night where the game time temperature was 94 degrees and the heat index was 103.

He battled through the pain until Butler -- the reigning American League Rookie of the Month -- smacked a hard ground ball up the middle. John McDonald fielded the ball, spun and tried to make an acrobatic throw, but dropped the ball. It was clearly a base hit.

"I was disappointed in myself that I couldn't get a throw off," McDonald. "In a situation like that, you know that he has a no-hitter going. I just wanted to get to the ball and get it in the air. If you get it in the air, maybe you get him."

Marcum immediately left the game after the hit. He finished with 81 pitches, 48 strikes and threw his fourth quality start in his last five outings. After he left, Marcum drank plenty of water, orange juice and Gatorade and didn't feel any lasting effects.

"We knew has soon as he gave it up, he was going to have to come out," Gibbons said.

Marcum, a reliever to start 2007, has worked into the seventh inning without allowing an earned run eight times in 16 starts and is 8-2 as a starter this season. The team is 11-6 when Marcum starts, one of the major reasons why Toronto is 58-56 and still alive for a postseason bid at 5 1/2 games back in Wild Card race.

"He is our savior," Lyle Overbay said.

And Marcum led Toronto to another huge victory. Pairing with catcher Gregg Zaun -- a player Marcum would watch when he came to games at Kauffman as a youngster -- Marcum flummoxed the Royals all evening. He couldn't grip the ball very well because of the heat and humidity and relied mainly on a cutter that looked like an off-speed pitch to KC hitters.

"He was just changing speeds," Bell said. "He was pretty much throwing the same pitch all night long like a slow breaking ball or changeup or something. He just kept throwing it and throwing it and throwing it. We just kept swinging at it and swinging at it and swinging at it."

Marcum kept getting outs. He walked David DeJesus, the Royals' leadoff hitter, to start the first inning for his first walk since the fourth inning of his July 18 start against the Yankees.

Then, Marcum struck out Mark Grudzielanek and coaxed a double play ground ball from Mark Teahen. Marcum threw perfect innings in the second and third. Joey Gathright tried to bunt with one out in the third, but he hit it right back to Marcum.

With one out in the sixth, Tony Pena flied out to center field. Trainer George Poulis and several other team personnel came out to the mound to check on Marcum's cramps, but he stayed in the game.

"The heat got to me a little bit and I was trying to stay hydrated and not pass out," Marcum said. "About the fifth inning, I just kept on pounding through it and tried to stay out there."

The shot at history eventually ended with Butler's single. Then, the night morphed into earning a victory. Up 2-1 in the eighth, Scott Downs induced a critical inning-ending double-play ball from David DeJesus -- one of the stingiest players in the Majors at grounding into a double play.

KC nearly came back in the ninth. However, Reed Johnson, inserted for defensive purposes late in the game, made a jumping catch on Mark Teahen's warning track line drive with one out in the ninth.

The play -- likely extra bases if Johnson doesn't make the catch -- proved huge when Butler, the next hitter, grounded a single between first and second.

"When it left the bat I was like 'oh boy,'" Zaun said. "Reed stayed with it and made a heckuva play."

A play that preserved Marcum's gem -- and allowed for an enjoyable night with several hundred family and friends.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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