So when the Minnesota Twins started jumping on a certain pitch, Bannister put his analytical mind together with Royals catcher Jason Kendall(notes) to see if they could figure out how to get Minnesota’s lineup of bashers to back off.
They did and it kept Kansas City from being swept.
Changing to more sinkers and changeups, Bannister worked through a day of trouble to help Kansas City avoid a three-game sweep with a 4-3 win over the Twins on Sunday.
“They kind of ambushed my cutter in the second inning and I didn’t really like that, so Jason and I talked about it and we really changed up how we pitched,” Bannister said after his first home win since July 5, 2009, against the White Sox. “It seemed to be effective the rest of the game.”
Bannister (1-1) scattered nine hits over 6 1-3 innings and Jose Guillen(notes) provided the support with his seventh homer and two RBIs. The Royals made the most of their nine hits after turning an 18-hit night into a loss the day before, taking advantage of Kevin Slowey’s(notes) less-than-stellar outing.
And, get this: the beleaguered bullpen held.
OK, so there were some shaky moments. Josh Rupe(notes) bounced pitches until the bases were loaded in the eighth inning and Joakim Soria(notes) gave up a run in the ninth, spreading an inevitable feeling of dread across Kauffman Stadium.
But after Soria gave up a run-scoring double to Justin Morneau(notes), he struck out Michael Cuddyer(notes) and Jim Thome(notes) for his fifth save this season and 94th career, passing Aurelio Lopez for most by a Mexican-born pitcher.
“It means a lot,” Soria said. “I’m proud to be Mexican and to have the most saves for a Mexican is good for me.”
Minnesota’s chance at a first sweep this season fluttered away in a wash of missed opportunities.
Morneau hit his fourth homer to drive in two runs and the Twins’ first eight hits were by different players. The problem was that Minnesota couldn’t move the runners around.
After stranding 23 runners in a pair of wins to start the series, Minnesota left 12 on in the finale—four in the last two innings—and was 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
“If we come up with one or two more big hits, there you have it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’re getting our opportunities. You just have to take advantage of them. It doesn’t always work out.”
Guillen has slid comfortably from right field into the designated hitter’s spot following a 2009 season filled with disappointment and injuries.
The 33-year-old Dominican slugger homered in four straight games from April 11-14 and entered Sunday tied for first in the AL with nine multihit games, second in total bases (49), third in hits (25) and fourth in slugging (.690).
Guillen twice doubled in runs against the Twins Saturday night and opened Sunday’s game with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. He later broke a 2-all tie in the fifth, lifting a no-doubt solo shot to left-center off Slowey (2-2) that landed in the fountain behind the first section of seats.
“He’s been tremendous,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “For me, it all goes back to his health. He’s feeling pretty good.”
Both teams needed to get some depth from their starting pitchers after Saturday night’s soggy, 4 hour-plus game that lasted 12 innings and featured 14 pitchers, including two-inning stints by both closers.
They got it, though neither was particularly efficient.
Bannister worked a perfect first and through trouble the rest of the way.
He got help in the first inning from third baseman Alex Gordon(notes), who made a diving stop on leadoff hitter Denard Span’s(notes) one-hopper and threw him out from one knee. Bannister then gave up two runs in the second, on a shoulder-high pitch that Morneau hit out to right for a solo homer and J.J. Hardy’s(notes) run-scoring single to left.
“Even the pitches they hit hard were down and located pretty decently,” said Bannister, who allowed two runs. “It was a positive outing just because they had beaten us a couple of times and we needed to get on the board against them.”
Slowey, coming off a stellar start against Cleveland on Tuesday, was hurt by Guillen in the first and fifth, sandwiched around a run-scoring single by Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) in the fourth. The right-hander gave up a run-scoring triple to Mitch Maier(notes) in the sixth that put the Royals up 4-2, then was done after inducing Betancourt to ground out.
“I felt like I made some pitches I certainly wanted to make,” said Slowey, who allowed four runs on eight hits in 5 1-3 innings. “They put some good swings on some good pitches. I left some balls over the plate and they put some good swings on those, too.”
Notes: An MRI revealed no damage to Twins 3B Nick Punto’s(notes) sore right groin, but he’ll have further tests on his hip to determine if the pain is coming from there. … Royals INF Chris Getz(notes) will begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Monday. He’s been on the DL since April 15 with a strained right oblique.