Bruce Chen pitched arguably his best game of the year going seven shutout innings. Greg Holland worked around an error in the eighth, striking out the side. And Jonathan Broxton picked up his 14th save of the season, dealing with two runners on in the ninth in typical dramatic Broxton fashion.
Chen and company only needed one run to beat the Minnesota Twins (21-34), thanks to Brayan Pena’s second inning two-out single that scored Eric Hosmer. Hosmer’s steal of second base (fourth on the year) with two outs, putting a runner in scoring position, turned out to be equally as important as Pena’s hit.
The big story of the night though was pitching and Bruce Chen (5-5) was at his best delivering a second shutout outing this season, earning his fifth victory. Chen, who is enjoying his best strikeout to walk ratio as a big league starter at 3.2 K/BB, gave up four hits while striking out five and walking none. In his first start of the season against the Los Angeles Angels, Chen also worked seven scoreless innings but came away with a no-decision in a game the Royals eventually lost 5-0.
Royals’ hitters were challenged just as much all night by the Twins’ Francisco Liriano, who only gave up the one run in the second, while striking out eight in six innings. Liriano also accomplished a rare feat striking out four batters in the fourth inning, one being Jeff Francoeur who reached base on a passed ball allowing for another strikeout attempt. According to MiamiHerald.com, it was the third time this season that a major league pitcher struck out four in an inning, and only the second time in Twins history, with Scott Baker doing it first in 2008 against Milwaukee.
The latest shutout gives the Royals their third in five games, and sixth on the season. The team had six shutouts all of last season combined. Granted, the three recent shutouts come against teams (Oakland twice, Minnesota) who are in the bottom eight of MLB in team hitting average, but for a beleaguered staff it’s still impressive. Looking back the past 10 years, the best stretch of similar shutout ball for the club came in September of both 2008 and 2003, when the Royals pitched three shutouts in a span of nine games. Just like this year with the Royals shutting out the A’s twice in June, the team shutout the Seattle Mariners twice in the 2008 stretch and the Angels twice in 2003.
You have to go back to August 15, 2010 to find the last time the Royals won a 1-0 game. Bryan Bullington, that’s no typo, pitched eight shutout innings of two hit ball, and Joakim Soria closed the game against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium. In that game, A.J. Burnett went eight innings giving up just one run. Against the Twins, the Royals lost a 1-0 game on the final game of 2011, but grabbed a 1-0 victory over the Twins on Aug. 9, 2007.
The Royals (24-30) go for the series win tonight sending Felipe Paulino (3-1, 1.70 ERA) to the mound to square off against Nick Blackburn (1-4, 8.37 ERA).