Bannister dominates in debut win
Starter holds powerful Tigers bats scoreless in pitchers' duel
DETROIT -- Brian Bannister came up with the perfect thing to give the powerful lineup boasted by the Detroit Tigers.
Bannister pitched seven shutout innings against the Tigers on Wednesday and the Royals' bullpen finished up in a three-hit, 4-0 victory as 32,348 fans watched at sunny Comerica Park.
Leo Nunez and Joakim Soria each tossed a scoreless inning to give the Royals a second straight win over the highly-hyped Tigers. This is the first time since 2003 that the Royals have started the season with two wins. Maybe it's an omen: that '03 club won its first nine games and spent much of the season in first place.
All three Tigers hits were singles by leadoff batter Edgar Renteria. Which means that Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Gary Sheffield and Co. had exactly zero.
"As a staff now, we know they have a lot of expectations, and we want to put a lot of pressure on them early in the season and just establish that we can play with them," Bannister said.
OK, then, that's been established.
Bannister gave up two of Renteria's singles, one to lead off the first inning and one to start the fourth. Neither hit led to anything. In fact, Bannister issued no walks and faced just 22 batters in his seven innings -- one over the minimum.
Bannister said his approach was pretty simple.
"I have good control, and I try and just mix it up," he said. "Pitch in, pitch out, pitch hard, pitch soft. Just pitch out there. It's hard to see on TV sometimes, but I'm really changing a lot of stuff each time."
Certainly there was virtually nothing on which to fault him.
"He got a couple out over the plate and got some foul balls on those that actually helped him out in the count a couple of times," manager Trey Hillman said. "They weren't able to square it up.
"Mr. Renteria had a good day, obviously, but other than that, Banny was in control and did a great job."
So too, for a while, did Tigers starter Kenny Rogers.
The Royals kept folding against The Gambler. For three innings, he held them helpless, nine up and nine down.
Joey Gathright finally got an infield single to open the fourth, but the game remained scoreless through the fifth.
Three doubles in the Royals' sixth changed that. Mark Grudzielanek doubled down the right-field line. After a second out, Jose Guillen doubled inside the left-field line, notching his first hit and his first RBI as a Royal.
Billy Butler belted another double to deep center and Guillen came home for a 2-0 lead.
"When you can drive in runs with two outs, you're going to be a pretty dad-gummed good team," Butler said.
In fact, all four runs scored after two were out.
The Royals added two runs in the eighth against reliever Zach Miner. Gathright led off with a double, Grudzielanek walked and, after two strikeouts, Butler and Teahen each had an RBI single.
Butler was out in a rundown after rounding second base, but the Royals were up, 4-0.
This was Bannister's day.
"When big league pitchers make big league pitches, they get people out," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "He made more big league pitches today."
Rogers was equally impressed.
"He was great," Rogers said. "Our lineup's very good, but he pitched fantastic. Outpitched me by far. He's fun to watch. ... He pitches. He doesn't throw. He's out there moving the ball around quite a bit and changing speeds. That's what it takes."
Bannister really didn't expect to go out for the eighth inning after throwing 85 pitches, 53 of them strikes.
"We haven't gone that far yet in Spring Training yet or anything, and I have so much confidence in our bullpen," he said. "Noonie threw great the other day and so did Soria, and it's fun to just hand the ball to those guys and just have them finish it for you."
The victory comes on top of Monday's 11-inning, 5-4 victory in which Gil Meche, Brett Tomko, Nunez and Soria combined to harness the menacing lineup.
"Our pitching's been unbelievable the first two games," Butler said. "Banny threw unbelievable. I was just sitting there impressed with every pitch he threw. I mean that's a big pick-me-up when we don't do anything for him in the first five."
Hillman is already 2-0 in his new venue, managing in the U.S. after all those years in Japan. He's beaten the mighty Tigers twice. The Royals are two games over .500 for the first time since April 11, 2004, when they were 4-2.
Pretty easy, huh, skip?
"No, it's definitely not the time to get cocky," Hillman said. "Actually it's just the reverse. It's time to stay humble. We've got to face a very good pitcher and a very good lineup again tomorrow."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.