"Going six innings and [allowing] a hit against that team is a good night," said Pruitt, who improved to 7-4 and lowered his ERA from 5.76 to 5.27. "That's a very good ballclub over there."
Entering the series opener, the Rays' bullpen had been solid, going 6-4 with nine saves and a 2.46 ERA. The relief corps had also thrown 80 1/3 innings in 25 games, which is carrying a big load.
"It was quirky today taking him out," said manager Kevin Cash, who explained that the Rays had planned ahead of time to get right-hander Matt Andriese into the game. "But the way we look at it, we got two days off of some really key guys in our bullpen who are going to help us here the last month."
Andriese completed the shutout with three scoreless frames for his first save.
At no time did Pruitt appear to be in trouble. The Royals did not get a baserunner until he walked Brandon Moss to start the third. And the only hit the Royals managed against the rookie came when Lorenzo Cain doubled with one out in the fourth.
"I think Austin really gave us an outstanding start," Cash said. "Came out, attacked in the zone. I thought he kept the ball down a little bit better today. ... He really did a good job of pitching at the knees and below."
Pruitt retired the side in order in four off his six innings. Of his 78 pitches, 50 were strikes.
While the bullpen needed Pruitt's effort, Pruitt might have been the guy who needed it most. In his three outings leading into this start, Pruitt had allowed 14 earned runs on 22 hits in 16 2/3 innings. In his previous start, he'd allowed four home runs to the Blue Jays in 3 2/3 innings.
Cash allowed that he was impressed by the way Pruitt flushed the results from his previous three outings.
"Good pitchers do that," Cash said. "Young pitchers, you like to see them do that, it's probably a little more difficult because every one of these young guys that come up here, I can imagine what goes through their heads after a couple of rough starts. Seemed like Austin was oblivious to everything. He just went out and dealt."
Pruitt credited his teammates for helping him get over the bad outings.
"A lot of support from my teammates, really," Pruitt said. "They kind of helped me get through it. Get back on my feet per se. Just a lot of support from my teammates."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.