KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s no reason for this not to work out going forward, right?
The Royals appear to have found what they’re looking for in pending free agent Jeremy Guthrie and, from all appearances, Jeremy Guthrie seems to have found a renewed comfort zone in the Royals’ rotation.
This much is certain: Guthrie pitched like an ace again Tuesday night in a 6-3 victory over Texas at Kauffman Stadium. He surrendered single runs in the first two innings before limiting the Rangers to one hit over the next five innings.
“Definitely, it’s been a good opportunity for me,” said Guthrie, who arrived July 20 from Colorado in a trade for Jonathan Sanchez.
“I said it from day one, and I’ll continue to say it. To be able to come here, for them to trade for me, was a huge opportunity. I’m trying to do the best I can with it.”
Guthrie (4-3) gave two runs and five hits in seven innings with five strikeouts and two walks. That makes six quality starts in his last seven appearances. This also marked the fifth time in six starts that he pitched at least seven innings.
And more: Guthrie has won four straight decisions and sports a 3.70 ERA in nine starts since arriving in what increasingly looks like a steal of a deal. Asked what Guthrie adds to the rotation, manager Ned Yost quickly ticked off a list.
“Stability, I think more than anything else,” Yost said. “He adds example by the way that he pitches. When he misses, nine times out of 10, it’s down. His execution, his preparation and his ability to compete are all positives.”
That sounds like a guy worth keeping, doesn’t it? For his part, Guthrie has no hesitation at entering in-season contract talks if the Royals are so inclined.
“Oh, no, I’m a talker,” he said. “Sort of like Billy Butler. You can’t control that. I’ve never really been in this situation. So it’s nothing that I’m familiar with. Obviously, I’ll do what I can on my end. Whatever goes on beyond that, I’ll be informed if it happens.”
The Royals backed Guthrie with a balanced 11-hit attack that included homers from Alex Gordon and Johnny Giavotella and at least one hit from every starter. They also knocked Texas starter Matt Harrison (15-9) in the fifth inning.
Kelvin Herrera breezed through the eighth inning on two routine grounders and a strikeout but gave way to Greg Holland after the Rangers opened the ninth inning with back-to-back singles.
Holland limited the damage to one run on a sacrifice fly before securing his 11th save in 11 chances since becoming the Royals’ closer.
The game turned at two points.
The first occasion came in the third inning with the Rangers leading 2-0. Ian Kinsler led off with a double and went to third on a sacrifice, but catcher Salvy Perez erased the threat with a pickoff.
“You’re staring down the barrel of being down 3-0,” Yost said, “and (they’ve) got an All-Star pitcher on the mound with a tremendous offensive club. To pick a runner off third base and keep it 2-0, you feel like you’ve still got a chance.”
Perez said he noticed Kinsler taking a big lead. So did third baseman Mike Moustakas, who flashed a sign that he planned to break toward the base for a pickoff attempt.
“They had (Josh) Hamilton hitting, a lefty,” Perez said. “So I had an opportunity (to throw). After the first pitch, I saw Moose give me a sign because (Kinsler) got a big lead. I thought I had a chance to throw him out.”
The throw was a dart. Moustakas applied the tag, and Guthrie was out of a jam.
“The big momentum shifter was the throw by Salvy,” Guthrie said. “He made a great play there – one out and a man on third – to pick off Kinsler. That was a huge sigh of relief for me. I’d scuffled up to that point.”
Kinsler compounded that mistake with an error later in the inning that led to two unearned runs. It was still 2-2 with two outs in the Royals’ fifth when Gordon put a 414-foot charge into a Harrison fastball for a two-run homer.
The Royals had their first homer in 42 innings and a 4-2 lead.
Billy Butler followed with a sharp grounder that ate up Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre. It was scored a single – perhaps in deference to Beltre’s deserved reputation.
Perez then ripped a drive into the right-center gap for a double … an RBI double. Yes, that means Butler scored all the way from first. (Credit third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez.) The Royals led 5-2, and Rangers manager Ron Washington went to bullpen.
Harrison allowed five runs, but just three earned, and eight hits while throwing 102 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.
Giavotella made it 6-2 with a two-out homer in the sixth against Roy Oswalt. The 416-foot drive to center was Gio’s first homer in more than a year – Sept. 3, 2011 to be precise; a drought of 185 big-league at-bats.
“Jeremy pitched his (backside) off and kept us in the game,” Giavotella said. “The whole time, he set the tone for us. And we were able to get him some runs.”