CLEVELAND | Brian Bannister can take a deep breath now. His 76-day, 13-start winless streak came to a resounding end Sunday afternoon when the Royals clocked a steady stream of Cleveland pitchers in a 13-3 rout at Progressive Field.
“I’ve tried to manufacture confidence because it really hasn’t been there,” he admitted. “I’ve tried to show differently otherwise when I’m on the mound, but it’s going to be much more fun going into the next game just having this under my belt.”
It helped that the Royals are suddenly tattooing everything in sight.
Ryan Shealy hit two more homers and matched a career high with five RBIs. José Guillen extended his hitting streak to 12 games and drove in three runs. Mike Aviles had three more hits.
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It was all part of a 17-hit attack and followed Saturday’s 31-hit explosion in a double-header sweep. The Royals have won four of their last five as they prepare to open their final home stand tonight against Seattle.
“It was one of those things,” Aviles said. “We got the offense rolling. We got a couple of pitches to hit. And we kept rolling and going with it. We kept the pressure on them. Fortunately for us, everything was going our way.”
It sure didn’t start well for Bannister, who entered the game at 0-9 in 13 starts since his June 23 victory over Colorado. He labored through a 37-pitch first inning when he yielded three hits and four runs.
After that, though, it was all Royals.
“Over the last couple of months,” Bannister said, “it seemed like my perseverance and confidence have been tested almost every time out in some way or another. Today was no exception.
“But I hung tough, made some adjustments. It was really nice that the offense broke out and took that pressure off of my shoulders.”
Bannister, 8-15, was a different guy after the first inning. He allowed just two singles over the next five innings and retired 14 of his last 15 hitters before handing a 9-3 lead to the bullpen.
John Bale, Jimmy Gobble and Yasuhiko Yabuta each worked one scoreless inning in closing out the victory. The Royals are 65-84 and need five victories in their final 13 games to reach 70 for just the second time in eight years.
“I think we fed off the first game (Saturday) and kept that going,” manager Trey Hillman said. “They made some mistakes that we took advantage of, but we’ve also hit some pretty good pitches.”
Shealy’s first homer, with one out in the second inning, started the comeback against Cleveland starter Jeremy Sowers. Shealy then contributed an RBI single in a two-run third that pulled the Royals even at 3-3.
That was it for Sowers, who needed 75 pitches to get through three innings. The Indians then used a season-high seven relievers, and the Royals treated most of them like a piñata.
“After they put up that three-spot,” Shealy said, “Banny settled down and threw up some zeroes. And we got some key two-out hits. Any time you can do that, you’re going to win some games.”
The two biggest two-out hits came in a four-run fourth inning against Edward Mujica, 2-2. David DeJesus gave the Royals a 5-3 lead with a two-run single. Guillen followed with a two-run double, and the Royals never looked back.
Shealy’s second homer was a three-run bomb in a four-run eighth inning against Tom Mastny. Shealy has four homers in 27 at-bats since his Sept. 2 recall from Class AAA Omaha.
“The balls that I’m not hitting real hard are finding holes,” said Shealy, who had four hits in the second game of Saturday’s double-header. “It’s one of those things, and you just ride it out. I feel good.”
So, too, finally is Bannister.
“Not many things I’ve done in the last couple of months have been fun,” he admitted. “My wife has been having a tough pregnancy, and the doctors just cleared her to off of bed rest for the first time.
“I don’t know if that was a sign, but it was nice to get a couple of things off of my shoulders. She’s doing fine. It’s been a good week.”