Is Jumbo for real?
That’s a tantalizing thought for the Royals after watching Felipe Paulino produce his third scoreless start in four outings since returning from the disabled list in Monday’s 6-0 victory over the New York Yankees.
“It is (for real),” he said. “It’s happening, and it’s happening now. I’m a better pitcher. My goal, every time I pitch, is to be consistent. Now, I know it’s a long season, but”
“It’s a boost of confidence to have him pitch the way he’s been pitching for us,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “He came out today against a great offense in the Yankees and gave us a chance to win by putting up zeroes the entire time.”
Tim Collins and Aaron Crow completed the seven-hit shutout.
The Royals backed Paulino with a 12-hit attack that included Moustakas’ two-run homer in the first inning against Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda. The ball hooked late but struck the foul pole.
How’s that for a first at-bat at Yankee Stadium? Like many players who come here for the first time, Moustakas spent time before the game touring Monument Park in center field and, generally, reveling in the opportunity to play in the game’s most famous venue.
“I absolutely did that,” Moustakas said. “Seeing all of that stuff and all of the great players who have playing in that organization was really cool to me.”
There were other encouraging signs: Eric Hosmer had an RBI double, Jeff Francoeur lined a two-run homer, and Alex Gordon had two hits and a walk. Billy Butler raised his average to .308 by getting three hits and a walk in five plate appearances.
In short, the Royals again looked right at home on road, where they have now won five in a row while improving to 12-7 away from Kauffman Stadium. Their 5-17 record at Kauffman is the problem.
“Here it is again,” Francoeur said. “We’re on the road I don’t know what it is. But we feel comfortable. We hit well. Offensively, I think we needed that (after Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Arizona at home).”
It was almost possible to forget those home woes on this rainy Bronx night after watching Paulino, 2-1, lower his ERA to 1.42 — four runs in 251/3 innings — while scattering six hits in 62/3 innings.
Paulino also struck out eight, walked two and became the first pitcher in club history to work six or more scoreless innings in consecutive starts against the Yankees. He went six innings on May 5 in a 5-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
“Not bad,” he admitted. “It’s nice to hear that.”
The Royals led 5-0 when Collins replaced Paulino with two outs in the seventh and a runner at second. He walked Curtis Granderson but ended the inning when Robinson Cano grounded to third.
Collins retired the side in order in the eighth but exited after Mark Teixeira’s leadoff double in the ninth. Crow retired the final three hitters. Then it was into the clubhouse, where the Royals gave Ned Yost a beer shower to mark his 600th managerial victory.
“I don’t know (whose idea it was),” Yost said. “They were all waiting for me.”
Kuroda, 3-6, lost to Paulino and the Royals for the second time in 16 days. And he did so with a similar performance: three runs and seven hits in 51/3 innings; he allowed three runs (two earned) in 41/3 innings in that May 5 loss at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals struck first after Butler blooped a two-out single to left in the first inning that fell in front of a diving Raul Ibanez. Moustakas then worked the count to 2-2 before crushing a hooking drive to right that stayed just fair for a two-run homer.
“I hit it pretty good off the bat,” Moustakas said. “I knew it had enough to get out. I just didn’t know if it was going to stay fair or not. It started off pretty straight before hooking toward the end. Thank goodness it hit the pole. I’ll definitely take it.”
Jarrod Dyson’s leadoff walk in the third inning led to another run. He stole second and scored easily when Hosmer drove an RBI double over Ibanez’s head for a 3-0 lead.
The game’s pivotal moment occurred later in the inning after the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs on singles by Russell Martin and Derek Jeter before Paulino walked Granderson.
“When the bases are loaded,” Paulino said, “I go aggressive and attack the hitter. I just try to beat that guy. It happened this time. I got two strikeouts and then got out of the inning with no runs.”
Paulino struck out Cano and Alex Rodriguez before stranding all three runners when Gordon ran down Ibanez’s drive at the wall in left-center field. Ibanez’s fly brought the crowd of 39,229 to its feet, but Gordon knew it was playable.
“I didn’t even know where the track was,” he said. “I even ran into the wall a little bit, but I knew I had it.”
The Royals rolled from there. Francoeur’s two-run homer in the seventh against reliever Freddy Garcia made it 5-0, and the Royals added another run in the eighth when Irving Falu doubled and later scored on a wild pitch.
“The turning point was Paulino,” Francoeur said. “You get the bases loaded with, to me, maybe the best hitter in the league, Robinson Cano, coming up. To strike him out, strike out A-Rod and get Ibanez — to keep that 3-0 gave us a little confidence.
“When I hit that home run and got it to five, we kind of put them away there.”