KANSAS CITY — Right-hander Glenn Sparkman threw seven solid innings of one-run ball, and the Royals jumped on Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi for three runs in the first in a 4-1 victory on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals have won four of five games.
Sparkman scattered five hits, walked one and struck out three in earning his second win this season.
For the most part, Sparkman flooded the zone with strikes (61 of his 91 pitches) and relied on his defense.
“He’s done that lately,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s on the attack. He is managing his pitch count well. His changeup was working good today. I was really pleased with his outing.”
Sparkman said pitching to contact was pretty much the plan.
“Just staying with the plan, really,” Sparkman said. “Just staying low in the zone and attacking those guys. And, like always, letting my defense be as good as they are behind me.”
One of Sparkman’s three strikeouts, though, was huge. With runners on first and third and two out in the fourth in a 3-1 game, Sparkman struck out Jonathan Schoop on a changeup.
“That strikeout was very big,” Sparkman said. “I thought we could really get him out with that changeup, and it worked.”
Yost agreed, sort of.
“It was a big moment,” Yost said. “Again, I don’t care if he strikes anyone out. I just want to get him out. I know strikeouts are sexy, but they add to your pitch count. But his economical pitch count allowed him to go seven innings.”
Whit Merrifield doubled to lead off the Royals’ first inning, went to third on Nicky Lopez’s single, and scored, along with Lopez, on Alex Gordon’s double off the right-center-field wall off Odorizzi.
“[Odorizzi] kind of has that sneaky fastball [and] likes to throw it up in the zone,” Gordon said. “He kinda blew it by me last game, so I just wanted to make sure I was on top of the fastball. When I had first and third, just try to drive something. I was able to fight off a couple good pitches and finally got one that I was able to hit and put a good swing on it.”
Lucas Duda, later in the first inning, singled in another run. He singled again in the fourth and he scored on Martin Maldonado’s double to left-center — that was Maldonado’s fourth double in his last six games.
“We’re playing well,” Yost said. “Gordy cracked it open for us today. I thought our pitching was fantastic tonight. Defense was really good. [Rookie shortstop Humberto] Arteaga made two really good plays tonight. And just enough offense.”