Remember that blue silence? Yeah, neither do the Royals, who own a season-best five-game winning streak after sweeping the Houston Astros from town with a 2-0 win Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Notice that it didn’t take four runs, either.
The Royals tagged Houston reliever Hector Ambriz for the game’s only two runs during the decisive eighth inning, sending the crowd of 20,723 home happy.
“Great pitching and defense today,” said left fielder Alex Gordon, who broke the scoreless deadlock with one-out RBI single in the eighth. “It kept us around long enough to do some damage there in the eighth.”
Luis Mendoza matched Astros starter Lucas Harrell with seven shutout innings before the Royals won a battle of the bullpens.
Mendoza stranded runners in each of the first three innings, including the third when he worked around a leadoff double by Ronny Cedeno, with help from a few defensive gems.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas opened the game with a diving stop on Jose Altuve’s line-hugging grounder and center fielder David Lough followed with a diving catch on Jason Castro’s sinking liner.
Shortstop Elliot Johnson, who was playing on the right side of second base as the Royals shifted for pull-happy Carlos Pena, added a diving stop in shallow center on a grounder up the middle for the final out in the first inning.
Buoyed by the sterling plays behind him, Mendoza and catcher Salvador Perez found a rhythm from there, retiring 15 of the next 17 Houston batters.
“That gave me a lot of confidence just to throw pitches right to Salvy’s mitt,” Mendoza said. “I was confident and it helped me make a lot of quick outs.”
Unfortunately, Mendoza, who scattered four hits and a walk with three strikeouts, settled for a no decision, because Harrell was every bit as effective after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning.
Harrell walked Jeff Francoeur leading off the second inning, but then retired 13 consecutive Royals before Perez’s one-out single in the sixth.
Harrell “was really sinking the ball and he was getting ahead in the count, good change-up,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He pitched well.”
Houston’s bullpen did not.
Johnson lined out to right leading off, but Chris Getz followed with a single to shallow right.
Altuve fully extended on a dive to his left to flag down Getz’s roller on the outfield grass, but Houston’s second baseman was able to cut down the speedy Getz, who then swiped second on Ambriz’s first pitch to Gordon.
Ambriz fell behind 2-0 before grooving a fastball that Gordon shot right back up the middle for the game-winning run.
Gordon scampered to second on the throw home and wound up at third base when center fielder Trevor Crowe’s throw sailed toward the Royals’ dugout.
Eric Hosmer followed with his own line-drive single to center through a drawn-in infield for a 2-0 lead, which was more than enough for a Royals bullpen that hasn’t allowed a run in 18 consecutive innings.
Aaron Crow, 2-1, got the win after working a scoreless eighth, while closer Greg Holland notched his 12th save — and fourth in June — after working around a leadoff walk.
With Pena on first, Moustakas made a nifty pickup on J.D. Martinez’s grounder to third to start a 5-4-3 double play before Holland fanned Chris Carter to polish off the shutout, the Royals’ fifth of the season.
“Wins certainly can change the mood of the clubhouse,” Getz said. “Not that we were dragging too much, but coming to the ballpark is a lot more fun when you’re winning versus the latter.”