CINCINNATI -- Royals rookie right-hander Heath Fillmyer's final start of 2018 had it all: He was dominant in 7 1/3 innings, he struck out a career-high nine batters, and he even got his first career hit and RBI.Fillmyer's start bodes well for Spring Training, when he will get a long
CINCINNATI -- Royals rookie right-hander Heath Fillmyer's final start of 2018 had it all: He was dominant in 7 1/3 innings, he struck out a career-high nine batters, and he even got his first career hit and RBI.
Fillmyer's start bodes well for Spring Training, when he will get a long look as a rotation candidate. Fillmyer gave up just four hits and one run in the Royals' 6-1 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday night.
The Royals won both games of the two-game set and notched their 56th victory, which means that they will not set a franchise record for losses in 2018. The worst they can do is tie the 2005 team, which finished 56-106.
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Fillmyer spotted his fastball and mixed in a sharp curveball and an effective changeup to keep the Reds off-balance all night. He walked two hitters.
"He threw the ball well, changed speeds well," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He has really done a nice job of executing his game plan. He doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes. He's doing everything you want a young pitcher to do."
Added Fillmyer: "Curveball was working really well today to lefties. Got good results with that and the changeup. I was happy about that."
And with two outs in the sixth inning, Fillmyer had a little fun at the plate, smashing an RBI double into the right-center-field gap -- Statcast™ measured his exit velocity at 102 mph.
"If I missed that one, I don't think I would have ever gotten a hit," Fillmyer said. "It was right down the middle. It was nice to get the monkey off the back.
"I think if I tried every day and I was a National League pitcher, I could put up some good at-bats. … In college, I was a good hitter, but that was four years ago. I'm definitely a 5 o'clock hitter."
Royals shortstop Raul Mondesi's speed impacted the game almost immediately. With one out in the first, Mondesi singled sharply to left, then stole second and third base, and he scored on Salvador Perez's double to center. Mondesi now has 28 stolen bases in 71 games.
Alex Gordon homered in the seventh inning, his 13th of the year.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
It was a play that looked very familiar to Royals fans, who still fondly remember Game 5 of the 2015 World Series and Eric Hosmer's mad dash for home with the tying run in the ninth.
The stakes weren't anywhere near as high, but Mondesi made a similar mad dash in the fifth inning. Mondesi led off with a triple off the wall in left. Gordon followed with a check-swing tapper back to right-hander Sal Romano, who checked Mondesi back to third before throwing to first for the out. But Mondesi bolted for home anyway and beat the throw somewhat easily, giving the Royals a 4-1 lead.
"He pulled a Hosmer," Yost said, smiling. "He read it perfectly. Didn't panic, held his ground, and took over. He's so fast, it's next to impossible to throw him out in that situation."
Mondesi said he had a pretty good idea he could make it home.
"I'm just trying to be heads up," Mondesi said. "When the chopper came to the pitcher, he just looked at me once and I was ready. So when he turned to throw, I went. I always play hard, because you never know when you're going to have a chance like that and show everyone what you can do."
Royals super utility man Whit Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a third-inning single. He also took over the American League lead in hits with 186, one more than J.D. Martinez. Merrifield also swiped two more bags and leads the AL in stolen bases with 41, after leading the league in that category last season (34). Merrifield became the first AL player with 40 doubles and 40 stolen bases in the same season since Jose Altuve did so for the Astros in 2014.
Right-hander Glenn Sparkman (0-3, 4.86 ERA) will get the start on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. CT at Kauffman Stadium as the Royals open their final home series of the season against the Indians. Right-hander Josh Tomlin (2-5, 6.44) will pitch for the Tribe. Sparkman will be making his third Major League start. He hasn't started since Aug. 21 in St. Petersburg, when he allowed three runs over four innings and struck out a career-high five against the Rays.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.