ARLINGTON -- Royals starter Jason Hammel struck out 10 batters, more than any Kansas City pitcher in a little over a year, as his club cruised to a 5-3 victory over the Rangers in their series finale at Globe Life Park on Sunday.
Buoyed by a 2-0 lead before he had thrown his first pitch, Hammel allowed a leadoff double and then got to work with the strikeout stuff, fanning Shin-Soo Choo. Hammel went on to strike out eight of the nine starters in the Texas lineup, including Delino DeShields and Robinson Chirinos twice.
"He's been around the plate extremely consistently, his last two starts have been exactly what you saw today," manager Ned Yost said. "He commanded his slider well, spotted his fastball well, changed speeds, moved the ball around really, really well. It was a great start for him."
All the strikeouts, plus several deep counts and two walks, limited Hammel to 5 1/3 innings on 102 pitches (64 strikes). He left after putting runners on the corners with one out in the sixth, and reliever Tim Hill got a double-play ball to allow Hammel to finish a start with no earned runs for the second time this season. He allowed four hits.
"For a very aggressive team like that, you can get quick outs and get deep into a game if you can execute early and I was kind of on and off with that," Hammel said. "I felt like I was going full count to everybody and that's why the pitch count was elevated.
"I was able to get big outs when we needed it ... trying to hunker down there."
Half of Hammel's strikeouts came on 91-93 mph fastballs and half were on 83-86 mph sliders. Eight were swinging third strikes and two were looking. He befuddled the Rangers hitters throughout the afternoon to rack up double-digit K's for the first time since June 1, 2015, and the fifth time since his Major League career began 12 years ago.
Danny Duffy was the last Royals pitcher to fan 10, on May 18 of last year.
Against Hammel's homonymous counterpart, Rangers lefty Cole Hamels, the Royals' offense put Hammel in a position to win from the beginning. Jonathan Jay and Salvador Perez collected first-inning singles and, after Jorge Soler reached on a fielder's choice and stole second, Hunter Dozier drove in Jay and Soler with a single to center.
"Two strikes, just kind of battling, and he threw me a curveball that I was able to drive up the middle," Dozier said.
Andrew Butera hit a solo homer in the second and Perez hit a two-run shot in the third to give the Royals enough margin to overcome a three-run Rangers seventh.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bullpen gets it done: The Royals relied heavily on their bullpen Sunday, using five relievers who combined to throw 4 2/3 scoreless innings. And perhaps none of those appearances was more crucial -- or more difficult -- than Jason Adam's eighth inning, which might have given Yost and the rest of the Royals a little heartburn.
Adam needed 30 pitches to work his way out of the jam he put himself in due to poor command of his secondary pitches. He allowed a leadoff single, threw a wild pitch to move the runner to second, got a flyout, threw another wild pitch to move the runner to third and walked a batter. Two mound visits were sprinkled in, the last coming before Rangers home run leader Joey Gallo came to the plate as the potential winning run. Adam collected himself and struck out Gallo, then induced a popup from Rougned Odor to escape unscathed.
"We were able to get through it," Yost said. "He was limited to one pitch ... for him to get through it, it just shows you his fastball's a pretty good pitch. It's a short-arm delivery with some deception, the ball jumps on you, and he was able to pitch to a pretty potent part of their lineup with one pitch. That was pretty impressive."
Perez goes yard: Perez's towering, third-inning homer to the visitors' bullpen in left-center traveled 394 feet, according to Statcast™, with a high launch angle of 37 degrees. More important, it gave the Royals two runs they would wind up needing after the Rangers rallied late. Perez's dinger scored Whit Merrifield, who led off the inning with a single.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Butera sliced his second-inning homer to the shallowest part of Globe Life Park, the triangular wedge that connects the foul pole to the main fence in right field. Statcast™ had it at 353 feet with an exit velocity of only 95.3 mph.
Asked if it was the cheapest homer he'd allowed, Hamels said, "I've given up quite a few into the Crawford boxes in Houston. … You try to execute a pitch. I thought I had the right kind of pitch. I just couldn't get it by him."
HE SAID IT
"I thought [Hammel] made some really quality pitches all day long: Fastball on both sides of the plate, slider played very big for him, enough changeups to keep us off balance." -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister
The Royals return home for a six-game homestand starting Monday against the Twins. Jakob Junis will start on Memorial Day against Lance Lynn. Last season, Junis had two no-decisions against the Twins despite a 3.27 ERA (four earned runs in 11 innings). He's been the perfect stopper for the Royals this year, as all five of his wins have come after a Kansas City loss. First pitch is set for 6:15 p.m. CT.