06/01/08 7:20 PM ET
Bannister, homers start KC win streak
Guillen, Grudzielanek homer as Royals take series from Tribe
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
With matinee expert Brian Bannister delivering 7 1/3 strong innings and Jose Guillen, Mark Grudzielanek and Alex Gordon contributing two RBIs apiece from the heart of the order, Kansas City breezed to a 6-1 victory over the Indians on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
After a 12-game losing streak through Friday, the Royals will take a two-winning streak into their next road trip beginning Tuesday in Chicago.
"Feels nice," Gordon said.
Twice as nice.
By ending the long losing skid Saturday, the Royals were able to relax and report to work in a good frame of mind for Sunday's homestand finale. The tipoff that it was going to be Kansas City's day came early, as Grady Sizemore led off with a double and never advanced to the next base.
Then Guillen put the Royals ahead with a third-inning homer to left that Guillen never expected would leave the park. On an inside delivery, Guillen pulled his hands in and took an unorthodox cut.
"It was like a half-swing," Guillen said. "It was so funny."
Indians starter Paul Byrd didn't consider it humorous at all. But the Royals felt it was just the breaks of the game evening out a bit. On Friday night, Guillen had blasted a drive to left-center with two outs in the ninth that looked off the bat like a game-tying extra-base hit or a game-winning two-run homer. But Sizemore caught that drive and then banged into the wall, preserving a 5-4 Cleveland win.
"With a day game, the ball travels much better here than at a night game," Guillen said. "It's a crazy game. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't."
The Royals, for the second straight day, came up with big two-out RBI hits. With two down in the third, Gordon doubled home two and Guillen singled in another to make it 4-0.
That was plenty of run support for Bannister, although Grudzielanek made it even more comfortable with a two-run homer in the fifth.
Bannister has turned into an afternoon wonder, compiling a 2.16 ERA in day games (0.92 in matinees at Kauffman Stadium), compared to a 7.71 ERA at night. Bannister is now 5-6, and all five wins have come in day games.
|"With a day game, the ball travels much better here than at a night game. It's a crazy game. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't."|
|-- Jose Guillen|
The Indians didn't score until Sizemore homered in the eighth on Bannister's 103rd pitch of the game.
"I really wanted to go deep, because we've used the bullpen a lot lately," Bannister said. "With the run support, I could pitch the way I wanted to pitch. It was nice to go out there and not have a [losing] streak on the line, just pitch relaxed. To see everybody smiling and having fun, it was a lot better feeling today."
Byrd was a 17-game winner for a 100-loss team when he pitched for the Royals in 2002. He hasn't fared well against his former team and now has just a 1-5 record and a 5.74 ERA against Kansas City.
Byrd lasted just 4 1/3 innings on Sunday, whereas Bannister went past the seven-inning mark for the fourth time this year while continuing his daytime dominance.
Trying to explain why Bannister's performances are like night and day is an fruitless exercise, according to the right-hander.
"I don't have an explanation for it," Bannister said. "I try to pitch the same way every time out."
After their big slide over a two-week span, the Royals (23-34) just hope to chip away and and climb back toward the .500 mark.
Another sign that the fates may finally be ready to smile on the Royals came in the Cleveland fifth when Franklin Gutierrez led off with a single and shortstop Alberto Callaspo committed an error on Andy Marte's potential double-play grounder. After Kelly Shoppach fanned, Sizemore hit a sizzling liner that Callaspo snatched and turned into a double play.
Those are the breaks Kansas City wasn't getting in the 12-game skid.
"I know we'll bounce back," Bannister said. "I don't have any lack of faith. It just seems like when you're going poorly that everything goes against you. We got the win [on Saturday], and then today, it was like a weight had been lifted off the team. It showed up in the hitting, the defense and in my pitching."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.