After enduring two miserable days of rainouts, the Royals got a gem worth waiting for on a dry Saturday night from Jeremy Guthrie in a 2-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
Guthrie delivered the first shutout of his career while pitching a dominating four-hitter. And while nothing lasts forever, baseball might offer no surer thing right now than Guthrie pitching against the White Sox.
He has a club-record run of 17 consecutive starts without a loss, and that streak includes six starts against the White Sox in which he has allowed just two earned runs in 44 ⅔ innings.
“We have a game plan (against the White Sox),” Guthrie said. “There’s a few different things we try out there. But, ultimately, if you execute pitches, just like against any team, you have a chance.”
His first gesture, when his gem was official, was to point to catcher Salvy Perez and clap his hand to his glove in appreciation.
“Salvy is just great back there in terms of what he’s calling,” Guthrie said. “When they’re aggressive, he seems to know. He calls something off-speed. It’s just that kind of flow to the game that we’ve been able to have.”
Perez joked that Guthrie’s success was due to not shaking off any pitches before turning serious and adding; “ I knew he could do it. That’s how good Jeremy Guthrie is.”
Guthrie, 4-0, needed to be good because the Royals managed nothing against Chicago starter Dylan Axelrod, 0-2, after getting a two-run triple from Lorenzo Cain with two outs in the first inning.
“That’s what it was like in Atlanta,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said, “with (Tom) Glavine and (Greg) Maddux. You get a couple of runs, play fast and go home.”
Guthrie is 9-0 with eight no-decisions in his 17-start streak that began last Aug. 8 with -- no surprise -- a 2-1 victory at Chicago. The late Paul Splittorff had a 16-start streak with no losses 1977-78.
“It’s a neat way to do it,” Guthrie said. “I haven’t heard much about (the record) except from fans. So you guys (in the media) must be talking about it more than we’re hearing about it in here.”
Guthrie’s shutout came the 189th start of his 10-year career.
“It’s something I’ve never been able to accomplish,” he said. “I’ve had a few opportunities. So it was really special to go out there in the ninth inning. Hearing that little roar from the crowd was really cool. It backed me up.”
That roar came when Guthrie, in typical fashion, sprinted from the dugout to the mound to start the inning. He breezed through the ninth by retiring the White Sox in order.
“He makes very few mistakes,” Chicago first baseman Adam Dunn said. “We were trying to get to him early, and obviously, that didn't work either. When you have a guy who has that many pitches and also locates it...”
Even so, the White Sox mounted two major threats.
Dunn drew a two-out walk in the fourth with Guthrie just missed on a 3-2 fastball. Paul Konerko followed with a double into the right-center gap, but third-base coach Joe McEwing held Dunn at third.
Guthrie stranded both runners by striking out Conor Gillaspie.
Chicago’s other chance came in the eighth after Tyler Flowers grounded a one-out single through the left side.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas grabbed Dewayne Wise’s foul pop on a nice play at the railing before Alejandro De Aza punched a single to left that moved Flowers to second.
That brought manager Ned Yost to the mound for a quick chat.
“Ninety-nine times out of 100,” Yost said, “I’m going to take the pitcher out of the ballgame there. In the eighth inning, he’s done his job. I’m not going to put him in a position to lose the ballgame.
“But in the back of my mind, I knew Jeremy Guthrie has never thrown a complete-game shutout in his big-league career. If he was going to do it, this would be the night.”
Guthrie ended the inning by getting Jeff Keppinger to ground into a force at second.
“Between innings,” Guthrie said, “there was no communication. There wasn’t much doubt that (Yost) was going to give me a chance to go back out there and finish it.”
The Royals stranded 10 runners and were just one for seven with runners in scoring position but, at 16-10, moved to six games over .500 for the first time since a 10-4 start to open the 2011 season.
Axelrod lasted until Perez’s two-out single in the eighth inning despite not recording a strikeout. He surrendered the game’s only runs after retiring the first two hitters in the first inning.
Billy Butler reached first when hit by a pitch and moved to second on Eric Hosmer’s ground single through the left side. It was the first of Hosmer’s three hits.
Cain drove in both runs on a slicing drive to right that eluded a diving Alex Rios for a triple. That was it...except for a series of web gems behind Guthrie.
Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar executed barehanded pickups on soft grounders in the third inning.
Hosmer dug out two low throws in the fifth from Escobar, and Guthrie himself pounced on Alejandro De Aza’s bid for a bunt single in the sixth. Moustakas made that key grab at the rail in the eighth.
“The infield just made tremendous plays,” Guthrie said. “They probably saved us three or four hits, which accumulates to who knows how many pitches and who knows how many potential runs.”
All true, but
“Guth was working quickly,” Hosmer said, “and that’s how you get your defense to make plays for you. It was Guthrie’s night.”