SEATTLE — The second time around is different for Royals rookie left-hander Will Smith. For proof, look no further than his last start — seven strong innings Tuesday in a 4-1 victory over the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
By BOB DUTTON and TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Smith exhibited an under-control approach that was notably absent earlier this year in a rough three-start stretch that marked his major-league debut — and resulted in his return to Class AAA Omaha.
“Down in the minors,” he said, “you just have to remember what you did to them last time and look at the sheet with their averages and other stats. You know who’s the hot hitter and what they’ve been doing the last 10 games, but that’s about it.
“There’s no video or anything.”
It’s far different in the big leagues, where a near-endless supply of information is available — from hours of video to reams of printed scouting reports that include detailed rundowns on hitting tendencies and spray charts.
“It can be overwhelming,” said Smith, who starts Sunday afternoon in the series finale against the Mariners at Safeco Field. “The first time around it was (overwhelming).
“The big stadiums were part of it, but also just how much information is available and given to you. I was a little more prepared coming back this time, so that has made it a lot easier.”
Smith went 1-2 in his first tour while allowing 14 earned runs and 18 hits in 14 innings before returning to Omaha for a six-week remedial stay. He earned another look after a four-start stretch in which he allowed just four earned runs in 272/3 innings.
Sunday marks his third start since returning.
“When I went back down,” he said, “I worked on commanding the strike zone better and throwing better strikes — working more toward the corners than the thirds. I tried to keep the ball down and develop better breaking balls. Just becoming a better pitcher basically.”
The Royals could use one.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas suffered a sprained right knee after making a diving stop on a grounder by Casper Wells in the first inning. Moustakas said he felt some discomfort after making the throw and left the game after the inning.
Moustakas is cautiously optimistic and said his knee “doesn’t feel bad,” but club officials are planning a precautionary magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam. That suggests he is unlikely to play before Tuesday at the earliest.
“It’s a little tender,” Moustakas admitted. “It was a ball down the line. I got it (with a dive). My legs were underneath me, and I threw from my knees. When I threw, I must have twisted my body around a little too much. I felt a little something in my knee.”
Replays suggested Moustakas’ throw beat Wells, but umpire Lance Barrett saw it differently. The result was an infield single
Yuniesky Betancourt shifted from second base to third after Moustakas exited. Chris Getz entered the game at second base.
When Bruce Chen worked around two singles in a scoreless first inning, it marked the first time in five games that a Royals starter carried a shutout into the second inning.
The Royals surrendered runs in the first or second inning in 12 of their previous 15 games.
The Royals entered Saturday ranked second in the majors with 112 defensive double plays. Minnesota ranked first with 117.
That doesn’t happen without good defense, but it probably doesn’t happen only because of good defense. The Royals and Twins also ranked 13th and 14th among the 14 American League teams in hits allowed.
The Royals recorded their 113th double play when shortstop Alcides Escobar ranged to his left to get Casper Wells’ one-out grounder in the fourth with Dustin Ackley at first base.
Catcher Brayan Peña acknowledged he was probably overaggressive in the seventh inning when he tried to stretch a leadoff single into a double.
The Royals trailed 3-1 when Peña pulled a single into right field that Wells failed to handle cleanly. But Wells recovered in time to make a strong throw for the out at second.
“Honestly, I was trying to spark something,” Peña said. “I was trying to hustle there and see if we could start something. But I’m not one of the fastest guys. So next time I will think twice before I do it.”
That out meant nobody was on base when Jeff Francoeur followed with a single that finished Seattle starter Kevin Millwood.
The Mariners called on Oliver Perez for a lefty-on-lefty matchup with Eric Hosmer. The strategy worked when Perez turned Hosmer’s grounder back to the mound into an inning-ending double play.
So the Royals sent only three batters to the plate in an inning that started with two singles.
It was five years ago today — July 29, 2007 — that Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews gained a niche in the National Hall of Fame by receiving the Ford C. Frick Award at Induction Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Matthews has been part of the Royals’ broadcast team since their inception in 1969. He was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
• Milwaukee signed former Royals catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor-league deal.
• Reliever Kelvin Herrera worked a scoreless seventh inning after replacing Bruce Chen. Herrera has a streak of nine scoreless innings over his last 10 appearances, and his ERA is down to 2.60.
• Billy Butler went three for three with a walk and now ranks second in the American League with 39 multi-hit games. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera has 42.
• The Royals have lost 13 of their last 16 road games.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to email@example.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.