Rookie Ventura earns first career win
Royals lagging offense comes alive as Infante homers, trio hit doubles
HOUSTON -- By almost any measure, four runs is no offensive eruption.
After two weeks of erratic hitting, the Royals will take it.
Omar Infante led the mild charge, drilling a first-inning home run and later tallying an RBI fielder's choice to back up Yordano Ventura's solid seven innings as Kansas City took game one of the series, 4-2, against the Astros on Tuesday night in Minute Maid Park.
The win marked the third series-opening triumph for the Royals in 2014, with Kansas City winning each of the previous two three-game sets. After a three-game sweep at the hands of Minnesota, though -- when the Royals scored only five runs -- the Royals desperately needed to dismiss notions of a slump.
Infante was up to the task, sending a one-out 2-0 fastball screaming over the high porch in left field at Minute Maid for his first dinger of the season.
Manager Ned Yost said prior to the game that some lackluster power numbers -- namely, league lows in total bases, slugging percentage and home runs -- weren't a concern.
It wasn't just Infante who proved Yost prophetic. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez ripped doubles as the Royals threatened Houston starter Lucas Harrell in each of the first five frames.
"Omar put us on the board early there with his homer, and it just led to some timely hits," Hosmer said. We know we need to do a better job of that."
Hosmer had perhaps his best game of the season, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk to nudge his early average up to .273, just three points shy of his career mark.
Infante's two runs driven in doubled his RBI total for the season, helping Kansas City at least temporarily reverse a weak offensive start to the year on an unseasonably chilly evening in Houston.
Even Billy Butler, whose average is still in the low .100s, collected an RBI on his fifth-inning sacrifice fly.
It all amounted to just enough support, just in time for the ever-more reliable Royals rotation.
Even with the bats starting to show some life, the story was ultimately Ventura, who earned his first career win with seven innings of four-hit, two-run ball.
"It feels really good, the team supported me and played really good behind me," Ventura said through a translator. "It gives me a lot of satisfaction to keep working hard."
The win earned him a traditional celebratory postgame beer bath in a gleeful Royals clubhouse. The typically stoic Yost was practically beaming with pride for the young starter's milestone.
"I'm just really proud for [Ventura] because it was like his [fourth] time that he's gone for a first win and had an opportunity to win all of them, but we couldn't hold it," Yost said, "To get that out of the way was big for all of us."
His night didn't start so smoothly. Dexter Fowler doubled to lead off the Astros' first inning and eventually made it to third on Jason Castro's single.
Despite Castro's limited speed, Ventura was holding him at first with two outs. Eventually, that focus led to an errant pickoff attempt that plated Fowler and knotted up the score at 1-1.
"Just got caught in my palm a little bit," the right-hander said.
But he was brilliant after that, only surrendering a solo pop to Carlos Corporan in the fifth inning. Though Ventura's fastball wasn't quite reaching his usual triple-digit speed, his command and changeup kept the Astros from jumping on it.
"It wasn't any surprise the way he was going to attack us," said Astros manager Bo Porter. "It was pretty much power fastball and, 'Here it is, let's play boys.' We didn't do too much with it."
The Dominican Republic native's final conquest came in the seventh, maneuvering out of a two-on, two-out jam with the game still in the balance.
"That was the biggest positive, the great job of getting us out of the seventh," Yost said. " He had a great first pitch changeup to Fowler to turn it over to the bullpen."
Wade Davis and Greg Holland took over from there and combined to strike out five Astros to nail down Ventura's breakthrough.
Ventura also tossed six shutout frames against Tampa Bay last week but got a no-decision in the 1-0 loss. All told, Kansas City starters now have a 2.59 ERA in 12 starts this season.
"The way our pitchers have thrown, we got to find a way to produce runs for them," Hosmer said. "Tonight was a good step."
With arms like Ventura, four runs could viably pass for an offensive onslaught. With the hint of pop the Royals' bats showed, they hope that's setting the bar too low.