Bannister's rocky outing dooms KC
Righty leaves after 4 2/3 in Sunday night's loss to Blue Jays
KANSAS CITY -- Brian Bannister holds himself to a high standard. For him, a quality start is seven innings with a low pitch count. It's a standard that Bannister has met nearly every fifth day this season. However, he didn't match it Sunday night against the Blue Jays.
A.J. Burnett certainly did. Bannister allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings and Burnett shut out the Royals through the first seven innings in a 4-1 Royals loss at Kauffman Stadium.
"That wasn't good enough," Bannister said of his performance.
It's been rare that Bannister has been unable to throw seven innings -- or even meet the minimal requirements for a quality start of at least six innings and no more than three earned runs. Entering Sunday, Bannister had thrown seven innings in 14 of his last 18 starts.
Six times has he tossed at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer. That included three of his past four starts, a stretch that yielded a 3-0 record, 1.61 ERA and four quality starts.
However, the patient Blue Jays waited out Bannister, forcing the rookie right-hander to cover 14 outs in 93 pitches for his shortest start since May 4.
"It was just a tough start," he said. "The hits were not on bad pitches, but it was just a matter of that I had to give into them, because I kept getting myself into 2-2, 3-2 counts."
Bannister permitted seven hits, including four for extra bases. On a day where the first pitch temperature was 100 degrees and the heat index was 104, Bannister had trouble using his offspeed pitches and had to rely on his fastball.
"I didn't pitch terrible and I was actually locating well, but I was just missing by an inch or two on some of the pitches," he said. "The hitters were able to eliminate some of my secondary pitches because I was struggling with them. It just came down to they knew I had to throw a strike in certain counts."
On the other side, Burnett, making his first start since coming off the disabled list, allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings. The only blemish was a solo homer by Alex Gordon in the eighth inning. Through the first seven innings, though, Burnett allowed three balls out of the infield and tossed an efficient 81 pitches.
"I have seen him better, but tonight he was really effective," shortstop Jason Smith said. "He probably got us chasing some pitches that we probably shouldn't have. We were maybe a little over-aggressive, and we were getting us out earlier in counts and that saved his pitch count."
Bannister couldn't keep his pitch count low. A pitcher who prides himself on quick innings, Bannister threw an uncharacteristic 47 pitches in the first two innings and 67 through three. He was nicked for a run in the third inning.
Bannister went ahead 0-2 on leadoff hitter Alex Rios. However, Rois battled back and, on the sixth pitch, lined a leadoff triple into the right-field corner and later scored on a sacrifice fly.
Bannister had a similar fourth inning. In the fourth, Aaron Hill led off with a deep fly ball to left-center. However, Joey Gathright saved a homer for the second straight night. On Saturday, Gathright ended the game when he reached over the fence and caught a potential two-run homer from Hill.
He made almost the identical catch Sunday. Gathright ran back, jumped, and made another sparkling catch. But Gregg Zaun followed with a double on a 0-1 pitch.
"I wasn't able to execute three to four pitches in a row and keep myself in pitchers' counts," Bannister said. "One thing that I am not a big believer in is wasting pitches, and just the way I was feeling, it kind of came across that way."
After a groundout and a walk, Bannister worked to a 1-2 count on Lyle Overbay, but Overbay took a ball and then laced a two-run double into left field. The hit gave Toronto a 3-0 lead.
"I still made a good pitch to Overbay," Bannister said. "I thought I had him on the [ball] before. You have to tip your hat to him. He got the bat on a well-located pitch, and I think that was the difference in the game."
Bannister was pulled in the fifth inning -- the first time he didn't work five innings since June 23 and just the second time Bannister didn't throw a quality start in the second half of the season.
Burnett tossed his first quality outing since June 7. He allowed two hits and three balls out of the infield in the first seven innings.
Gordon snapped the shutout when he blasted the first pitch he saw in the eighth for his 10th homer and second in as many nights. Coupled with a nice defensive play in the field, Gordon's day punctuated another impressive performance for the rookie. Since June 6, Gordon is batting .309 and has played sparkling defense.
"I think that he has done a heck of a job, and I don't there is anyone who has played third base better than him in the league, which is saying a lot," manager Buddy Bell said.
However, another great night from Gordon trumped a rare off-night from Bannister.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.