Bullington tops Yanks for first career win
No. 1 pick in 2002 Draft shuts down NY over eight innings
KANSAS CITY -- When it came to earning his first Major League win, Royals right-hander Bryan Bullington did it right. Almost perfectly.
There wasn't much more that he could do other than pitch eight shutout innings, facing just one batter over the minimum, to humble the New York Yankees, 1-0, to the surprise of 26,012 fans on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. He gave up just two hits and one walk.
Joakim Soria tied the Bullington bow with a perfect ninth inning for his 33rd save. And there they were, the mighty Yankees wrapped up as a gift for Kansas City.
"This is a good day, that's for sure," Bullington said. "It was a lot of fun, a long time in coming, and I really enjoyed it."
Especially when it came over the team with the most wins in Major League Baseball.
"Today, he was unbeatable," his catcher, Brayan Pena, said. "He could've beat the American League All-Stars today."
Bullington has quite a history -- the top pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft by the Pirates, then five years of knocking around Triple-A and never winning in 19 big league games, including six starts. He was 0-7.
Until Sunday afternoon. This was his second start this season with the Royals; after faltering in relief in May, he returned with a different attitude.
"Determined is a very good word," Bullington said. "I'm 29 years old and I'm to the point where I don't want to kick around in Triple-A for another four or five years. If I'm going to do this, I want to do it now."
There was some doubt that he'd even start this game. But he'd done well -- three runs in six innings in a loss to the Angels on Tuesday night -- filling in for Brian Bannister. And Bannister wasn't quite ready to rejoin the rotation.
So Bullington cranked it up again. And how. He retired the first 13 Yankees he faced, so dominating that he might have thought about a no-hitter.
"No, not in a one-run game," he said. "I was trying to get outs and keep them at a zero."
The first hit came with one out in the fifth as Robinson Cano, on a 3-2 pitch, rolled a single into right field. He was eliminated, though, as Lance Berkman rolled into a double play.
The Yankees' second hit came with one out in the sixth as Brett Gardner grounded a single to left. He, too, was wiped out, by Pena trying to steal second.
All this time the Royals were trying to cope with Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett, who was pretty tough himself. But he gave up a first-inning run after Willie Bloomquist singled, then stole second and went to third on catcher Francisco Cervilli's throwing error.
"I figured I'd try to catch 'em by surprise and go on the first pitch and get there," Bloomquist said. "The ball went into center and I was able to get in scoring position for Billy [Butler]. ... The element of surprise sometimes works."
Butler drilled a single into right field to score Bloomquist.
"There was no way of knowing that was going to be the only run scored today," Butler said.
But it was. Burnett also finished eight innings for a complete game, and gave up only four hits. Every hit in the game was a single -- in direct contrast to Saturday night's Yankees barrage which featured three homers by Alex Rodriguez in an 8-3 win.
Rodriguez sent center fielder Gregor Blanco near the wall with his drive in the second inning, but that was the day's longest sock.
"It's frustrating, because usually guys who dominate us are left-handed pitchers," Rodriguez said. "[Bullington] was very transparent. There were no guessing games -- no secrets. Right through the strike zone. Today, he was better than us."
Indeed, he was. Bullington threw just 96 pitches, and with he and Burnett and Soria demonstrating great efficiency, the game was reeled off in two hours, seven minutes.
It was the sixth time this season the Yankees were shut out.
"There are no holes in that lineup anywhere, and to do what he did -- shut them out through eight innings on two hits -- is pretty amazing," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Yost had decided to lift Bullington for reliever Blake Wood if Rodriguez had opened the eighth inning with a hit. Rodriguez struck out and Cano grounded out, but Marcus Thames, batting for Berkman, who left with an ankle injury, drew a walk. Now Yost was torn -- should he bring in Wood now? No, Bullington stayed on the mound.
"I just decided -- go ahead and earn it, kid. Get this out right here," Yost said.
After the eighth, though, there was no hesitation on Yost's part. Soria, with those digital flames leaping around the stadium, would pitch the ninth.
"That's his time, that's his job, he's our closer," Yost said. "Bullington's job is to get us to Jack, so he did his job. It's a no-brainer."
Soria promptly disposed of Gardner, pinch-hitter Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter to end the game.
Sure, Bullington felt he could have pitched the ninth.
"But you don't have one of the best closers in baseball and leave him standing out there," he said.
Afterward, Bullington was feeling -- at long last -- as if he finally belonged the big leagues. And why not? He certainly looked like it as he mowed down the Yankees the first time he ever faced them.
"Whether we'd seen him once or 100 times," Jeter said, "the way he threw today, he was going to beat us."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.