Bullpen nails down first road victory...
Ambiorix Burgos is mean, and he wants you to know it.
It's about time. After dropping 12 straight road games to begin the season, the Royals tonight eeked out a nice 1-0 shutout win over the struggling Minnesota Twins. Jeremy Affeldt picked up his second win of the year, and while he didn't allow any runs and only surrendered three hits, his control was less than marvelous. Over five innings, Affeldt walked six, and twice he had to work out of bases-loaded jams. Affeldt was throwing harder than usual, dialing his fastball all the way up to 97 mph, but he struggled to locate both his fastball and curveball consistently. Quite frankly, he was lucky to escape without allowing several runs, but RC will take it.
Of course, the anemic Twins offense did its part to help him out, and so did the Royals' defense. Emil Brown turned in a quality -- if not highlight reel -- sliding catch, and Doug Mientkiewicz probably saved a run or two in the third inning when he dashed across the diamond to field a Luis Rodriguez sacrifice bunt attempt and threw out Juan Castro at third. Affeldt had walked both Castro and Shannon Stewart to lead off the inning, but Minky's stellar play completely killed the rally.
Of course, the true hero of the day was the bullpen, which entered the game in the sixth and completed the shutout by tossing four excellent innings, walking nobody while surrendering only two hits. In fact, over the last two games, the bullpen hasn't allowed a run or a walk (and only three hits) in 8.2 innings while recording seven strikeouts. Admittedly, much of this is merely a testament of how poor the Twins' offense truly is, but at the same time it's encouraging that the bullpen may once again be turning into a strength for the ballclub. And who can argue that Ambiorix Burgos isn't one of the most dominant young relievers around? He's looked completely unhittable lately.
Offensively, the Royals again failed to look very sharp, and Mark Teahen looked particularly bad while striking out twice. And the really bad news is that Teahen entered the game as a pinch hitter for Reggie Sanders, who left the game with a sore hamstring. Sanders is day-to-day, and his injury really couldn't have come at a worse time. For the next couple of days at least, the Royals figure to be without their three best hitters, so Buddy Bell is going to have to get even more creative with his lineup. Paul Bako tonight started for the second game in a row, and he picked up the only RBI with a base hit to right field in the second inning.
How often do we get to dig into our Paul Bako photo collection?
The Royals now head to Chicago to wrap up the road trip with a three-game set against the White Sox. They'll draw Jon Garland, Javier Vazquez, and Mark Buerhle, so the offensive struggles are likely to continue. The Royals will need good starts from Scott Elarton, Runelvys Hernandez, and Mark Redman to stay with the Sox, but crazier things have happened...like the Royals being on the winning end of a 1-0 road game.