KANSAS CITY — Royals right-hander Homer Bailey had a rough start, giving up three runs in the first inning. But Bailey did his manager Ned Yost a huge favor by saving the bullpen, gutting it out through six innings and keeping the Royals close early at 4-1.
The Royals eventually lost to the Angels 7-3 Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
But the effort by Bailey, who lasted only one-plus innings in his last start, wasn’t lost on Yost.
“He did a great job,” Yost said. “As a manager you’re kind of evaluating every inning. I know he totally didn’t have it his last start. And the first inning he could have got out of it with nothing. But still, you think, ‘What will I do?’ if he can’t find it here and you start lining up [relief] innings. He just went out there and made adjustments and competed. His split was good and his fastball.”
Bailey gave up only one run over his final five innings, and he retired the final 10 hitters he faced.
In the first inning, the Angels jumped hard on Bailey’s fastball, which was hitting 94-95 mph earlier this season. For the second straight game, though, Bailey’s fastball sat around 91-92 mph.
Singles by Mike Trout, Brian Goodwin and Andrelton Simmons loaded the bases with one out.
Then Albert Pujols hit a sharp grounder to the right of rookie third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, who was making just his second big league start. The ball scooted under Gutierrez’s glove and was ruled a two-run double, which propelled Pujols past Barry Bonds on the all-time RBIs list for third place.
Yost, however, thought Gutierrez could have started a double play on Pujols’ grounder.
“Guti is a plus defender at third base and that’s a play I expect him to make,” Yost said. “He makes that play and [Bailey] gets out of that with nothing. He didn’t have his best stuff today, but he grinded it out and gave us six good innings.”
Gutierrez, too, said through interpreter Pedro Grifol that he should have made the play.
“I had my glove there,” Gutierrez said. “I just didn’t make the play.”
An RBI groundout by Tommy La Stella made it 3-0.
But from there, Bailey looked much like the solid pitcher he was prior to his last start. And that was encouraging to both Bailey and Yost.
“It was, especially coming off the one before where I had a lot of walks,” Bailey said. “Then today, not having any walks and to kind of get back to being aggressive in the zone, find the zone again and then kind of work from middle-out. The last 10 batters really felt better. I really felt like I could’ve gone seven [innings], but I didn’t argue when they said I was done.”
What was Bailey’s issue in the first inning?
“A little bit of tempo is what [pitching coach Cal Eldred] pointed out,” Bailey said. “But even those hits in the first were soft singles — singles nonetheless — and on Albert’s ball it’s kind of one of those where if it’s just six inches the other way it’s a double play. That’s just the way it goes. … The biggest thing is just try and keep that focus. Put that one behind you and keep going forward. ”
Put-away home run
Right-hander Ben Lively gave up a three-run home run to Justin Bour in the ninth inning, turning a manageable 4-2 deficit into a 7-2 hole. That mattered because the Royals’ mini-rally in the ninth would have had the tying run and winning run on base when Alex Gordon grounded out to end the game.
Lively left a 3-2 fastball up in the zone to Bour, who crushed it off the right-field-bullpen wall.
“You can kind of get away with that [pitch] in Triple-A but not here,” Yost said.
Yost had veterans Ian Kennedy and Wily Peralta warming in the eighth inning but went with Lively in the ninth.
“If we can be within one run, I would have went with Kennedy,” Yost said. “If it was tied or we had the lead, I would have went with Peralta.”