Guthrie's nine K's help Royals earn first win
Right-hander aided by key hit-and-run call in pivotal three-run fifth
CHICAGO -- Good pitching? The Royals were getting that again from Jeremy Guthrie. But where was the hitting? Manager Ned Yost figured he had to get creative.
So he called a hit-and-run that kick-started a three-run fifth inning and carried the Royals to a 3-1 victory -- their first of the season -- over the White Sox on Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field.
There was no score when the Royals came off the field after the fourth inning. So Yost talked to Jeff Francoeur and Chris Getz.
"We needed to get something going, we'd been struggling offensively," Yost said. "I kept looking for a spot, but we couldn't get the perfect spot. When they came in, I told Frenchy and Getz, we're going to try something a little out of the norm right here. We're going to look for a spot to hit-and-run and see if we can't break the ice a little bit and get something going. Sure enough, it did and we did."
The free-swinging Francoeur didn't need any encouragement to buy into Yost's plan.
"I was in the hole and Yost said, 'I know you don't hit-and-run much ...,' but, before he could even finish, I said, 'Sure, why not?'" Francoeur said. "We weren't doing anything else and I saw [Gordon] Beckham do it earlier and thought, 'Why not?'"
After Eric Hosmer drew a one-out walk from Gavin Floyd, Francoeur banged a single to the right side and off flew Hosmer to third base. Jarrod Dyson's hopper glanced off first baseman Paul Konerko's glove to Beckham, the Sox second baseman. He returned the ball to Konerko and Dyson was out, but Hosmer was home.
"Dice got the first run in and everybody kind of relaxed and, boom, boom, now we've got a three-run lead," Yost said.
Yep, because Getz followed with a single up the middle to score Francoeur and he took second on center fielder Alejandro De Aza's error. Alex Gordon doubled down the right-field line to score Getz. It was 3-0 and after 22 innings, the Royals had their first lead of the season.
"Ned got us going. Our offense was very slow at the beginning and he put the hit-and-run on with Frenchy, and he found the hole and everything else was history," Gordon said. "Getz got a huge hit, I got a double and it just got things going. Big inning for us and Ned did a good job doing that."
Guthrie let in one run in the bottom half of that inning -- on a hit batter and singles by Beckham and De Aza. But that was it. He worked six innings and struck out nine, one shy of his career high.
"I thought my slider today was a little bit better located than it has been in the past, and a large portion of the strikeouts came on sliders," Guthrie said.
The victory continued Guthrie's domination of the White Sox since he joined the Royals last year. He's given up just two earned runs in his last five starts and 35 2/3 innings against them. But he shrugged off the notion of any mastery over them.
"I've never had a mastery over any team but, if I do, I'll be sure to let you know," Guthrie said. "I never had one, but I've had quite a few that have had a mastery over me."
Despite losing the first two games of the series, the Royals were buoyed by the pitching of starters James Shields and Ervin Santana.
"These are the games that you've got to find ways to win sometimes," Francoeur said. "The first three guys through the rotation, you kind of get a glimpse of what this year could be -- it could be a lot of fun. We manufactured three runs today and that's all we needed to win."
When Guthrie was through, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and closer Greg Holland each notched one scoreless inning.
"They were good today, and Guthrie was good," Beckham said. "He didn't give up a lot of bad strikes. It seems like he made a lot of good pitches. It's not like we missed too many pitches today. I think he was that good."
Crow survived two singles in the seventh before Herrera blew through the eighth with two strikeouts. Holland made it interesting in the ninth, following two outs with a walk and Beckham's fourth straight single.
"I got the first two quick outs and I was just like, 'OK, pound the strike zone,' and I didn't go after it enough, because I was trying to control my adrenaline a little bit, because I haven't felt that in a while," Holland said. "But, it was really good that we had a two-run lead. It could've got a little more hairy."
De Aza rolled out to end the game and Holland had his first save.
The Royals got the pitching they needed to support their modest five-hit attack. After a big offensive Cactus League season, the Royals scored just five runs in their first three regular-season games. Their bats went as cold as the Chicago weather.
"We came out of Arizona and had good traction. We were running hard in Arizona, got here and stepped on a patch of ice," Yost said. "It got a little slippery for us here ... you slow down a little bit and then you regain your momentum and, boom, we'll be gone."