KANSAS CITY — Add another candidate to the possible Royals rotation of the future.
One night after rookie Heath Fillmyer dazzled the Tigers, Rule 5 Draft acquisition Burch Smith was even better. In just his third start as a Royal, Smith gave up one hit and two runs through 6 1/3 innings in the Royals’ 5-4 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
“Smith pitched great,” manager Ned Yost said. “We were trying — him and Fillmyer both — to get them fully extended out. We were looking at 85 [pitches], but again, like Fillmyer last night, he really wasn’t in much trouble. We were gonna try to take him as far as we could. … What a game he pitched.”
Unlike Monday, the bullpen held on this time as Wily Peralta picked up his fifth save. Smith got his first win since Sept. 15, 2013, when he was with the Padres. The Royals have won four of five since the All-Star break.
“Definitely excited,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time. Just happy to get the opportunity …
“I remember that last win. That was fun, too. It was in Atlanta and at the time they were a playoff team.”
Smith, using a four-seam fastball that touched 96 mph and a sharp curveball and devastating changeup, baffled the Tigers through six innings, as the right-hander gave up just the one hit and no walks while striking out six.
After getting an out in the seventh, Smith seemed to tire and walked back-to-back hitters. As Yost came to get Smith, the crowd gave the pitcher a tremendous ovation.
“That was special,” Smith said.
Yost brought in left-hander Tim Hill to face Victor Martinez, who hit a three-run home run off a slider after a 10-pitch at-bat.
Smith threw a season-high 96 pitches, the most he had thrown at any level since 2013, when he threw 106 pitches on Sept. 27 of that year for the Padres.
Yost said he has known for some time that Smith is better suited for a starter’s role than the bullpen.
“He’s got more of a starter’s mentality,” Yost said. “Which means he’s better off pitching every five days instead of not knowing if he’s going to pitch tonight. It takes him a long time — when he was in the bullpen, his routine was a starter’s routine. We’d have to call down a half an inning before to tell him ‘get ready’ and stuff. He’s just got the starter’s mentality. Been a starter his whole career.”
The Royals’ offense got off to a quick start when Mike Moustakas hammered a two-run home run to right, his 20th of the season, giving Kansas City a 2-0 lead. It was the first time in Moustakas’ career he has had consecutive seasons with 20 or more homers.
Then Salvador Perez took over. Perez hit a two-out single to right in the third inning, scoring Rosell Herrera from second.
In the fifth inning, Perez, who had three hits, clubbed his 15th home run of the season, just into the left-field corner seats, and it was 4-0.