Royals keep it going behind Bannister
Righty's seven shutout innings makes it two wins in a row
KANSAS CITY -- Brian Bannister was frustrated after the first three innings on Friday night. He hadn't allowed any runs, but Texas had made Bannister throw 56 pitches and they narrowly missed several scoring opportunities. At the current rate he was going, he wouldn't likely work more than six innings -- and fall short of his pre-game goal.
"I really wanted to go seven," Bannister said.
But Bannister made several adjustments and threw a career-high 116 pitches, working seven shutout innings. His superb outing led the Royals to a 6-1 victory over the Rangers.
"He just seems to get better as the game goes along," Bell said. "He had some innings where he was not as efficient pitch count-wise, which got him up to 116, but he was really good against a team that was really playing well."
Billy Butler hit a three-run homer in the first and Kansas City tacked on several more in the later innings. Manager Buddy Bell, though, hoping to put the game away early, was critical of his offense for its problems with bunting and moving runners over.
"We did some poor things offensively," Bell said. "You don't want to get greedy. I think we are at a point as an organization and as a team where we need to play the game right. There are some things that we have to do better situationally."
However, Bannister's outing helped overcome any of the offense's shortcomings. On Sunday, Bannister threw seven innings of one-run ball against the high-octane Tigers and was a little better versus Texas.
"I think it was very similar to the Detroit outing last time," Bannister said. "I had the same approach, kind of the same results as in Detroit. The hitters were very patient at first and made you work."
Similar to Jorge De La Rosa on Thursday night, Bannister evaded several jams in the early innings. Bannister left six runners on base in the first three innings, including three in scoring position.
"We did have a couple of opportunities but he didn't give in," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "You have to give him credit. We didn't give this one away, he earned it."
Texas' closest call came in the third when they had two runners on with one out.
Bannister tried to set up Marlon Byrd with an outside fastball and a slider. Byrd laid off the first slider and Bannister threw him another one. Byrd hit it solidly, but couldn't hit it far enough. Mark Teahen went back and made the catch in the right-center field gap.
"I think that was one of the biggest plays of the game," Bannister said. "We changed speeds very well that at-bat and he just couldn't get a full swing on it. That's why it didn't get to the track, didn't get to the wall and didn't get out."
And Bannister cruised the rest of the way. The flyball started a streak of 12 straight batters retired. He threw 37 pitches in the middle innings before he worked around a seventh-inning walk.
Bannister went back to his usual style: attack with a first pitch strike and then attack the zone some more. The Rangers' offense tried to be patient, but Bannister's frequent first-pitch strikes kept them off balance. When he went out the zone, they chased.
"My game plan is always first pitch strike, just keep the ball down and just keep putting pressure on them," Bannister said. "I try to pitch like a guy with better stuff than I have and just believe in myself, and once hitters recognize that I have the confidence to go right after them, they have to swing or else they are going to get behind real fast."
After dropping two straight starts, Bannister has won two in a row and has permitted just one run in 14 innings. Bannister has worked at least six innings in 10 of his last 11 starts.
Bannister's seven wins are tied for second among Major League rookies, while his 3.42 ERA ranks third behind the Braves' Peter Moylan and Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie. Bannister, 7-3 since June 1, is also in the top 10 for innings pitched, quality starts, strikeouts and opponents' batting average.
"He is really on a roll right now," Butler said.
So is Butler.
Butler's shot off Wright's slider upped his July numbers to a .354 average (28-for-79) with three homers and 24 RBIs.
"I just got the point where I am glad I didn't miss that," he said. "I am just trying to do what I can and I got a good pitch to do that today."
Coupled with Bannister's sterling performance, Butler's offense helped trump any of the team's later offensive problems and the Royals cruised to a second straight win.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.