Have the Royals found the ace their rotation so desperately needs?
Felipe Paulino turned in another dominant start Friday night by combining with three relievers on a three-hitter in a 2-0 victory over Oaklands punchless As at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals staked Paulino to an early lead two runs in the first innings and he nursed it through six innings before Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland and Jonathan Broxton completed the shutout.
Paulino, 3-1, lowered his ERA to 1.70 while throwing 94 pitches. He allowed three hits while striking out five and walking three. It marked the third time in six starts since returning from the disabled list that he didnt allow a run.
I expect this now, he said. I expect to do the best I can do. Im a guy who puts everything into a game. I compete. If Im healthy, man, I can do that.
Herrera worked a one-two-three seventh. Holland started the eighth by walking .205-hitting Kurt Suzuki but retired the next three hitters. Broxton closed out the victory with a one-two-three ninth for his 12th save in 14 chances.
So, no, dont forget about the bullpen, which has a 1.60 ERA over the last 22 games.
But the victory just the sixth for the Royals in 23 home games belonged to Paulino, who didnt make his first start until May 5 after opening the season on the disabled list because of a strained right forearm.
Ive been up and down in my career, Paulino said. Finally, (Im healthy), and I appreciate Kansas City giving me the opportunity. Theyre seeing what I can do. People here believe in me. I can do more stuff like I did today.
The Royals have won five of their last six and improved to 19-14 since ending their 12-game losing streak a skid that started April 11 with Broxton blowing a 12th-inning lead at Oakland.
Thats way long ago, Broxton said. Ive had some outings since then, and I blew one since then, too. I was able to throw some strikes and to elevate. Once I got some strikes on them, I started elevating and they started swinging through it.
As veteran Bartolo Colon, 4-6, settled into a groove after the Royals two-run first inning. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third and didnt allow any further runs in his seven innings.
Those two runs were all Paulino, the bullpen and the Royals needed. Oakland was shut out for the 10th time overall and the sixth time in its last 16 games. The As have lost nine in a row and scored just 12 runs in that span.
So maybe it wasnt all Paulino and the Royals bullpen.
Id like to be an opposing pitcher right now, As right fielder Josh Reddick said, facing a struggling team like us and a lineup like us thats for sure.
I dont think its so much the pitchers doing. I wouldnt say theyre not doing their job, but theyre just taking advantage of a struggling lineup. Lets put it that way.
Jemile Weeks opened the game with a double on a hard grounder that ate up first baseman Eric Hosmer. Paulino pitched around the threat by striking our Seth Smith, retiring Reddick on a routine fly to center and striking out Yoenis Cespedes.
That set the tone and enabled the Royals to jump on top after Alex Gordon opened their first with a walk. Yuniesky Betancourt, just back from the disabled list, followed with an RBI double into the right-center gap.
Ive faced Colon a lot before, and I feel good against him Betancourt said. When I played in Seattle (and Colon was with the Angels), Id see him a lot.
Betancourt went to third on Billy Butlers fly to deep center and scored on Mike Moustakas soft single into left for a 2-0 lead.
That was it.
The As mounted a two-out threat in the third after Weeks reached on a single off Paulinos glove. Smith walked but, with the count 2-2 on Reddick, Weeks took off for third before Paulino delivered the pitch.
Paulino threw to third for the final out.
We work on that in spring training, he said. When that happens, we have to execute. That guy runs a lot. I heard someone say to step off, so I stepped off and threw to third base. It was really nice, because it helped me to shut down the inning.
The Royals loaded the bases with no outs in their third by sandwiching singles by Butler and Jeff Francoeur around a walk to Moustakas.
And got nothing.
Hosmers hopper to the mound resulted in a force at home before Alcides Escobar grounded into a double play.
Turned out, it didnt matter.