The best-case explanation is that Kyle Davies really has found something in his new aggressive approach. That maybe this is the start of a genuine breakthrough in his development.
And not merely strong-arming an opponent with bigger problems than the Royals.
This much is certain: Davies delivered the best start of his big-league career Monday night with eight shutout innings as the Royals continued their recent roll with a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium.
Davies allowed just four hits, all singles, while striking out eight and walking none before exiting after 98 pitches. Joakim Soria pitched the ninth inning for his 38th save in 41 opportunities.
“That’s the tempo I need,” Davies said. “Everything I’ve been working on since the start of the season has been to start pitching like this -- to try to be as aggressive as possible and limit my pitch count.
“It’s not easy to do, and I’m not saying I won’t have more hiccups along the way, but I’ve got to have that tempo and that ability to throw the ball and have them swing at my pitches. I can’t fall behind 2-0 and have to battle back.”
Davies, 7-7, retired the first 12 hitters and allowed just four hits, all singles, before exiting after 98 pitches. His eight strikeouts matched a career high. He didn’t walk anybody.
It was a gem of a performance that enabled the Royals to survive a bushel of base-running mistakes that kept the game from being a rout:
•They lost one run in the first inning on appeal when Ryan Shealy missed third base on the way home on what should have an RBI single by Mark Teahen.
•José Guillen was thrown out at third in the sixth when he made a belated break from second after an error by third baseman Mark Tuiasosopo on a Shealy grounder.
•Alex Gordon was thrown out at home in the seventh by right fielder Ichiro Suzuki when he tried to score from first on Alberto Callaspo’s double past first.
Davies turned all of that into footnotes.
“The guy I saw tonight,” Mariners left fielder Raul Ibañez said, “had good stuff, located his fastball and has some good complimentary pitches to go with it.”
Davies said it all started in his last start at Minnesota when he upped his aggressiveness over his final three innings after getting cuffed around early in the game.
“The mind-set changes,” he said, “when you go on the attack. I need to stop trying to be a pitcher at 24 years old. Just go out there and attack with my stuff. I tend to throw more strikes that way.”
The Royals finished with 12 hits, including three from Teahen and two apiece from Guillen, Shealy and Mike Aviles. Guillen extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games.
“We got some timely hits,” Teahen said, “and Kyle was lights out all day. It makes it easy when you’re getting back in the dugout quickly every inning.”
The Royals produced single runs in the first and fourth innings against Mariners starter Carlos Silva, 4-15, before adding one run in the seventh against relievers Justin Thomas and Sean Green.
It was sufficient, thanks to Davies, for a fourth straight victory and the fifth in six games.
The Royals, 66-84, are 9-5 in September after a 7-20 tumble through August. They also need just four victories in their remaining 12 games to reach 70 for the second time in eight years.
Silva drew strong interest last winter from the Royals as a free agent before signing with the Mariners for $48 million over four years. He allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings and is now 1-15 in 23 starts since April 17.
Davies fell one inning short of getting his second career complete game when manager Trey Hillman opted for the Mexicutioner in the ninth. Even Hillman admitted Davies “probably had enough steam to finish it off.”
Davies had no complaints.
“We have an All-Star closer,” he said. “I didn’t think one thing of it. It’s Trey’s decision. If you ask me, I’m never going to say I want to be pulled. That’s true in the first inning, the third inning or the seventh inning. It doesn’t matter if I’ve thrown 160 pitches.
“But if he tells me Soria is coming in, it’s a 3-0 lead, and I have a pretty good chance to win the ballgame.”
Soria worked a one-two-three inning.
“When you have a starter go deep like that,” he said, “I don’t want to mess with that. I just want to do my job and get a win for him.”
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