09/25/11 7:00 PM ET
Mendoza's line a good thing for Royals
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Mendoza won his second straight start on Sunday, as the Royals beat an almost-as-tough Gavin Floyd and the Chicago White Sox, 2-1, on a damp, overcast afternoon with 22,018 fans watching at U.S. Cellular Field.
A big right-hander from Mexico, Mendoza went a career-high 7 2/3 innings and held the White Sox to five hits and one run.
"Against their 'A' lineup, too," manager Ned Yost said. "He really did a great job, got us into the eighth inning with two outs and scoreless."
Mendoza had a shutout going when singles by Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez with two outs in the eighth prompted Yost to summon Greg Holland from the bullpen. Paul Konerko jumped on a first-pitch fastball and doubled in a run.
"Konerko kind of ambushed a fastball. When he got to second, he told [Chris Getz], 'I wasn't waitin' on that slider. I was gonna swing at the first fastball I saw,'" Yost said. "Melky [Cabrera] did a great job of getting over to it, getting it in and keeping the tying run on third."
With that, Holland stepped back off the mound to clear his mind.
"At times like that, you've got be able to keep your focus and continue to make good pitches," Holland said.
That he did. After intentionally walking the always dangerous (to the Royals) A.J. Pierzynski, Holland slipped a third strike past Dayan Viciedo to leave the bases loaded. And, in the ninth, Holland struck out the side to record his fourth save.
That gave the Royals a final 11-7 edge in their first season-series victory over Chicago since 2000, and ensured the White Sox (77-82) a losing season.
For the second day in a row, it seemed as if the Royals might be headed toward no-hit ignominy. On Saturday night, they were hitless against John Danks until Salvador Perez singled with two outs in the fifth inning.
On Sunday, Floyd had a no-hitter through a full five innings, getting major help when center fielder Alex Rios crashed into the fence just as he caught Billy Butler's long drive to end the fourth inning. Rios was down for a brief time and was taken out of the game as a precautionary measure.
"That's as good a breaking ball as we've seen in a long, long time," Yost said of Floyd. "And we only got three hits on the day, but we pieced them together perfectly -- two hits, a bunt, a hit. So it was just enough offense and a whole lot of pitching."
Lorenzo Cain broke up the no-hitter by leading off the sixth with a looping single into right field.
"I saw he had a no-hitter going, so I was just trying stay with my approach. He threw me a cutter there, and I was just lucky I was able to drop it in there," Cain said. "It's always a good feeling to break up a no-hitter."
It turned out that the Royals would get all three of their hits and both runs before that inning was over.
Getz followed with a single, and both runners moved up on Alcides Escobar's sacrifice bunt. That paid off immediately, as Jarrod Dyson whistled a grounder just inside the first-base bag for a double to score both runners.
"It was a cutter in. That was the first cutter he threw me, and I was looking up the middle away and got the cutter in and just reacted," Dyson said. "I was just glad it was a fair ball and got the guys in."
Those four hitters -- Cain, Getz, Escobar and Dyson -- were all the Royals needed all afternoon.
"Cain and Dyson were the cogs," Yost said. "The bottom of our order set that whole game up for us. All guys who just got here or don't play much, except for Esky, and that was a beautiful bunt."
It all came on a day that ended with the Royals' veterans outfitting their horde of 14 rookies in outlandish costumes -- the annual initiation ritual -- for the trip to Minnesota. Fittingly, Dyson was dressed as a superhero, the Green Lantern.
The White Sox struggled against Mendoza, the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, who returned to the Majors last Tuesday night to beat the American League Central champion Detroit Tigers.
Juan Pierre led off the first with a single, and later there were singles by Alejandro De Aza and Ramirez -- but no runs. When Mendoza departed, he had thrown 100 pitches, with four strikeouts and two walks.
"I'm used to seeing that down in the Minor Leagues," said Cain, an Omaha teammate. "He normally goes seven, eight strong each and every day. He's been doing that all season."
Mendoza stands 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his two starts for the Royals. He looks like an entirely different pitcher from the guy that in 2010 was 0-1 with a 22.50 ERA in four appearances for Kansas City. That earned him a permanent stay at Omaha.
"To be serious, I just started the year to make the adjustments and come back to the big leagues. Right now, I just feel a lot of confidence on the mound, and I'm just happy to see the results," Mendoza said.
The results have vaulted him into next Spring Training's battle for the rotation.
"They gave me the chance to start two games, and I just wanted to finish the year strong," Mendoza said. "Right now, I don't care about next year. I just know I made it a good year, and that's all that matters to me."
His manager, though, is already thinking ahead.
"He's going to get a nice chance to compete for a spot next year," Yost said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.