Bullington holds own in return to Majors
Pitcher may have earned another start with quality outing
ANAHEIM -- The road just got rougher for the Royals.
They lost to the Angels, 3-1, as a sellout crowd of 43,512 watched on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. That dropped the Royals' record on their current trip to 2-6 with one game remaining.
The Royals lost two of three games each at Oakland and Seattle and have lost the first two here. The series ends on Wednesday afternoon.
"We're struggling for runs," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But these things run their course, hopefully, and all it takes is one big hit to get everybody going. So we'll just wait till we get that one big hit."
He waited in vain as the Royals managed just five singles off right-hander Dan Haren, who won his first game since being dealt to the Angels by the D-backs. And they got no hits against relievers Fernando Rodney and Brian Fuentes.
If there was an upside to the proceedings for the Royals, it was the performance of right-hander Bryan Bullington. He was making his first big league start since 2008, and he got through six innings, giving up three runs on five hits.
"He's got a sinker, a short slider that's good, and a nice changeup," said the Angels' Bobby Abreu. "He throws 91, 92 [mph], good, lively arm. He's got pretty good stuff. He looks like a good talent to me."
Maybe Abreu was just feeling charitable since he was 2-for-2 with a walk and scored twice against Bullington.
But Yost was impressed, too -- enough that he might give Bullington another start against the Yankees on Sunday. That would be Brian Bannister's start, but he was skipped in this turn of the rotation to work on some mechanical issues. And Bullington now is a possibility to fill in again on Sunday.
"Definitely," Yost said. "We'll see where Banny is and it makes the decision to give Banny one more extra start [off] easier when he pitches like that, for sure."
Abreu led off the Angels' first inning with a double, Alberto Callaspo singled him to third and Hideki Matsui hit a sacrifice fly. But Bullington kept the score at 1-0 and zipped through the next three innings unscathed.
Meanwhile, in the Royals' second, they scored the tying run after Kila Ka'aihue ended an 0-for-13 skid with a single. He got around the bases on Haren's wild pitch, a groundout and Alex Gordon's sacrifice fly.
The game was decided by the Angels' two-run fifth inning. They took the lead on a squeeze play.
Howard Kendrick doubled and went to third on a flyout. Then Kendrick dashed for home as Peter Bourjos dropped a bunt in front of the plate. Royals catcher Jason Kendall made a stab at the ball and wheeled to tag Kendrick sliding past. Alas, Kendall left the ball on the grass, and his glove was empty.
"My foot slipped on the cutout of the grass," Kendall said. "That's why I didn't get it. I took a golf divot in the grass."
It was a supreme disappointment when the catcher glanced back to see the ball still on the ground.
"I thought I had him," Kendall said.
Bourjos was then thrown out trying to steal before Abreu singled and scored on Erick Aybar's triple into the right-field corner for a 3-1 lead.
And that's where it stayed. Bullington missed on his bid for his first big league victory, and his career mark slid to 0-6, all in starting assignments.
"I kept us in the game for the most part," Bullington said. "I wanted to come out and be aggressive and throw strikes, and I felt like I did that."
There was one curious blip in the Royals' sixth when Kendall failed to run on a looping fly ball that dropped fair down the left-field line in front of Abreu. Kendall thought the ball was going foul into the stands and got a single instead of a sure two-out double.
"He hit it and he thought it was in the stands," Yost said. "He heard us yelling at him, and he ran, but he never saw the ball. That's not Jason Kendall, that's not anything I have to worry about."
From Kendall, no excuse.
"It's unacceptable," he said.
The Royals had one big chance against Haren in the seventh. Singles by Wilson Betemit and Yuniesky Betancourt plus a walk filled the bases with two outs. But Haren escaped by getting Willie Bloomquist to roll into a forceout, and that was his last inning of work.
Haren's reward would be his first victory in 10 starts. He last won on June 12 when he pitched the D-backs over the Cardinals.
Right-hander Philip Humber, in his first Royals appearance since being called up from Triple-A Omaha, posted two scoreless innings. He was greeted by a Kendrick smash to left field, but Gordon threw him out trying for second.
"That first time out there is always kind of an adrenaline rush," Humber said. "But that first at-bat really helped when that ball was hit hard to the left side and then we had him thrown out at second. That was a big play right there."
Humber kept the Royals close, but that big hit that Yost was looking for ... well, he'll just have to wait a while longer.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.