De La Rosa comes up big for KC
Left-hander works around trouble into sixth in Royals' shutout
KANSAS CITY -- A revitalized Jorge De La Rosa. Eight extra-base hits, including three by Alex Gordon. An incredible game for Tony Pena that featured terrific defense and a walk. Shutdown relief from Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria.
In short, Thursday yielded one of the most complete games for Kansas City this year. The team effort yielded a 7-0 series-salvaging win over the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
"Considering who we are playing and considering that the Yankees are the hottest team and maybe the best team we have played, yeah, I think it could be [our best game]," manager Buddy Bell said. "I am sure there are some other games that we need to win just as badly as we needed to win tonight, but winning the game, how we won it and how recent it is, I think you probably say that it is at the top."
Gordon said the team was "upset" after Kansas City lost three in a row for the first time since late June. The Royals responded with their first shutout since June 27 -- and the Yankees' first blanking since June 30.
"I am very excited," De La Rosa said.
He should be. De La Rosa provided the foundation for the victory. Entering Thursday, De La Rosa had allowed 10 earned runs and tossed just 7 2/3 innings in his last two starts.
But he ended his poor streak with 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Yankees, a team that leads the Majors in several second-half statistics, including runs, homers and batting average and had outscored Kansas City, 25-7.
"Recently, we are just not quite sure which Jorge is going to show up, and tonight he was outstanding," Bell said. "He got most of his pitches over and got some big outs early."
It marked just the second time all year De La Rosa didn't allow a run. He left eight men on base in the first five innings and worked around several huge jams.
"They were in a lot of key situations where they could have capitalized," Jason LaRue said. "But he made pitches and that says a lot. He didn't give up and didn't give in."
De La Rosa evaded trouble in four of the first five innings. In the first, he had runners at the corners with two outs and coaxed a popup from Hideki Matsui on a 3-0 pitch.
"We had the opportunity to do some damage, but [De La Rosa] was better than we were," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
The trend continued.
De La Rosa left three on in the third and fourth, but the closest call came in the fifth. Back-to-back singles yielded the middle of the lineup. With the bases loaded and two out, Matsui bounced a high hopper to Gordon.
The play was close, but Gordon's relay led De La Rosa perfectly for the out.
"I speak for everyone when I say it feels good to make a nice defensive play because it helps out your pitcher," Gordon said.
No play was bigger for the Kansas City staff than Pena's in the sixth. A walk and an error put two on with one out for the slow-running Jose Molina, who hit a ground ball to deep short that Pena backhanded. Pena, knowing that Molina wasn't very fast, surprisingly didn't go to third.
"I didn't cover the bag at first," Gordon, playing first base, said.
"I personally thought he was going to third," Bell added.
Instead, the instinctive Pena gloved, turned and threw a laser to Esteban German at second, and German's relay throw to Gordon ended the inning. The play punctuated Pena's night that also saw a triple, double and his first walk since May 5, a team-record 244 plate appearances without a free pass
"I thought Tony Pena played a spectacular game," Bell said.
So did the rest of the offense. The Royals used four extra-base hits -- including two triples in one inning for the first time since Sept. 14, 2005 -- and scored four in the second off Kei Igawa. They added another in the seventh on an RBI double by Billy Butler.
"That was one of the hardest balls I have seen hit all year," Bell said.
Gordon homered in the eighth -- his first since June 26 -- to cap off a three-hit night that also yielded a double and a triple.
"I just think I have been getting good pitches to hit and I just haven't been missing them," he said.
Greinke and Soria kept the Yankees scoreless in the later innings and provided the final touches on a big win for KC.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.