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04/13/08 6:59 PM ET
Royals climb back into win column
Bannister allows just three hits, gets plenty of support
By Alan Eskew / Special to MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- Brian Bannister kept his streak going Sunday, which ended the Royals' three-game losing streak. And the Royals' 26-inning scoreless famine is history, ending in the first inning when Joey Gathright crossed the plate. Bannister went the distance and won his third straight as the Royals defeated the Twins, 5-1. Bannister, who gave up just three singles and one unearned run, lowered his season ERA to 0.86. "I'm trying to get back to how I was pitching in June and August of last year, when I went on those runs," Bannister said. "I'm a streaky pitcher. I have always been. I can go on hot streaks, and I just always hope the hot streaks are longer than the cold streaks. "I go out there and try to keep momentum going and keep going after hitters as long as everything is working. When it stops, you regroup and try to do it again." Bannister had it all working against the Twins. After Minnesota scored an unearned run in the first inning after a Jose Guillen error, they had only one inning -- the sixth -- when they got a runner past first base. "Today is really all about Brian Bannister -- a complete game, no earned runs, faced four over the minimum, a pretty good day," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "Banny is what he is. He's a very good pitcher in the purest sense of the word 'pitch.' He makes and mixes his pitches very well. He's not afraid with sometimes a below-average fastball, but its got some life to it. At times, it comes out as average when he needs a little extra. He's very picky about when he uses that little extra." Bannister walked one, hit a batter and struck out three. In 21 innings, he has given up just 10 hits and two earned runs. "I try to get ahead of guys, throw all four pitches for strikes and move it up when I have to," Bannister said. "Obviously with the wind and how the ball was flying, I was trying to get them to hit the ball to left field because the ball was really carrying out to right." While Bannister beat the Yankees in his previous start, he was unhappy that he lasted only five innings because of four walks that helped get his pitch count up to 98. "I wanted to get out there and redeem myself after the Yankees game, because I was really disappointed how that game went [since] I preach innings and efficiency," he said. The Royals' struggling offense tied it in the first, when Gathright used his speed to beat out a grounder to shortstop for a single. After Esteban German moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt, Gathright scored on Billy Butler's two-out single. "That was huge," Bannister said. "Nobody likes to talk about that [26-inning drought], but it was a reality. Our hitters stepped up." Hillman was glad to see the Royals score in the first, their first run since the first inning on Thursday against the Yankees. "I think it was really big, especially considering their first run was an unearned run and the fact we had lost three in a row and two to this team," Hillman said. "I think that was a big factor. [You want to] get the momentum back immediately -- at least tie it up -- give everybody a chance to take a deep breath and say, 'OK, we're going to win today.'" Alex Gordon homered, doubled, stole a base and scored three runs. "What scoreless drought?" Gordon deadpanned. "I didn't know we had one. No, it is always good to get that run in the first inning and get things going. I think that was big after two shutouts." Butler extended his hitting streak to all 12 games this season. After Butler's run-producing single, the Twins pitched carefully to him, walking him in his next three plate appearances. "Honestly, I wouldn't pitch to him either right now," Hillman said. "He's gotten off to a really good start. His first swing today -- boom -- he impacts the ball very well. He's a real good hitter. He's one of our most dangerous hitters right now. He shows discipline, especially for a young hitter." Gordon gave the Royals a 2-1 lead in the second when he scored on Miguel Olivo's double. Gordon led off the fourth with a double, swiped third and scored on a Tony Pena sacrifice fly. John Buck, who had walked, scored on German's single. Gordon's homer in the eighth, his third homer of the season, finished the scoring. "We had a comfortable lead, so it's always good to tack on some more," Gordon said.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.