Four Royals pitchers combined to shut out a slumping Oakland team on Friday, led by Felipe Paulino‘s six shutout innings.
Oakland entered the game as losers of eight straight and the Royals opened up doing everything they could to make sure they lost the ninth. Alex Gordon walked and a newly-activated Yuniesky Betancourt doubled to right-center to drive him in. After a fly ball moved him to third and a bloop by Mike Moustakas drove him in, the Royals had given Paulino two runs to work with. The Royals recorded eight hits, with every batter except Jarrod Dyson contributing one.
That’s all it took.
Despite some shakiness in the middle innings, Paulino was strong, striking out five and inducing eight ground outs. He also picked off two runners, catching Jemile Weeks taking off for third too soon and catching him with a throw to Moustakas and later picked off Yeonis Cespedes at first. The A’s only got three hits, including one on a comebacker to the mound that Paulino lost after it deflected off his glove.
Over 29,000 fans saw the Royals win their first game after an off day and just their sixth game at home.
The Royals bullpen took over for the final three innings, continuing a stretch of scoreless innings. The last run surrendered by a Royals reliever came off of Jose Mijares on May 28, a string of 11.2 scoreless from the bullpen. Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland and Jonathan Broxton finished things off, with each recording at least one strikeout. Holland allowed the only baserunner, walking Kurt Suzuki to lead off the eighth.
Broxton fought back from a 3-1 count to start the ninth against Josh Reddick, but came back to strike him out looking on a slider. He overmatched Cespedes, striking him out on on three straight swings on fastballs after starting him off with a ball. Kila Ka’aihue grounded out to short to end the game.
Paulino has a 1.70 ERA after 37 innings over six starts in 2012 with a 1.14 WHIP and 39 strikeouts. He’s given up runs in just two starts since coming off the disabled list and looks every bit like an ace of this pitching staff. He threw 94 pitches tonight and could have thrown more, but Ned Yost opted for the bullpen instead of sending him out again.
Tomorrow’s game starts at 1:10 p.m. with the Royals only a game behind Detroit and could end up in third place by the end of Saturday. Brandon McCarthy should be activated tomorrow to start for Oakland and Luke Hochevar will try to keep Oakland’s offense from waking up.