KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lucas Harrell appeared headed for a short outing in front of his own fan section at Kauffman Stadium.
But he settled to match Luis Mendoza with seven scoreless innings Sunday, but the Kansas City Royals rallied against Houston’s bullpen for a 2-0 win over the Astros.
“It was nice to get to pitch in front of a lot of friends and family,” Harrell said. “My mom and dad sat right behind our dugout, so it was nice to see them right there.”
Harrell threw 51 pitches — 26 strikes — in the first two innings and walked three of the first seven batters he faced. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first by getting David Lough to groundout with the bases loaded.
Harrell made some adjustments after the first two innings and gave up just two singles to Salvador Perez.
“I felt like my mechanics were off a little,” he said. “I looked at video and saw that I was leaning back a little bit. That’s what was causing my arm to be separated a little bit from my body. I worked on that and that helped me later on in the game.”
Royals manager Ned Yost was impressed.
“He was really sinking the ball, ahead in the count, a good changeup,” Yost said. “He threw the ball well. He was throwing strikes with his sinker, keeping it down. We just kept pounding it in the ground. We couldn’t get it up in the air.”
Manager Bo Porter opted to pull Harrell after 99 pitches.
“I wasn’t going to send him back out there and put him in position to get a loss,” Porter said. “If you send him back out there he’s at 115 or 116 pitches with men on base. You’d have to bring in someone else. Now he’s in position to just get the loss. He couldn’t get a win. It was a positive start for him. We got him out of the game on a good note.
“He was outstanding. Even early on when he walked a couple of guys he made good pitches to get out of innings,” Porter added. “He did a tremendous job going seven innings against a pretty good-hitting lineup.”
The Astros’ bullpen, however, could not keep the game scoreless for long. Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer stroked run-producing singles off Hector Ambriz in the eighth for the only runs.
Mendoza matched Harrell with seven scoreless innings and allowed just four hits.
“He used his off-speed very effectively,” Astros first baseman Carlos Pena said. “He threw us a lot of off-speed pitches today. I know personally I didn’t see a lot of fastballs. But you know he’s got it. You know he’s got 95 in the bag. It makes his off-speed pitches a lot more effective, especially when he’s throwing them for strikes. I thought what made his sinker better was that he was throwing his breaking ball for strikes.”
Aaron Crow (2-1) worked a scoreless eighth to earn a victory that gave the Royals their longest winning streak since taking seven in a row form Sept. 10-17, 2011.
With one out in the eighth, Chris Getz singled and stole second off Amrbiz (1-3). Gordon, who was 1 for 18 on this homestand, singled to center for the first run. Gordon moved to third on center fielder Trevor Crowe’s errant throw home and scored on Hosmer’s single.
Greg Holland pitched a spotless ninth for his 12th save in 14 opportunities.
The Astros got only one runner past first base in the first six innings. Ronny Cedeno doubled to start the third and advanced to third base on a groundout, but went no further.
Mendoza, who entered 0-2 with an 8.05 ERA in four home starts, retired 12 in a row after Cedeno’s double.
Harrell, who had won only one of his previous seven starts, retired 13 in a row from the second inning until Perez’s single in the sixth. But he was quickly erased when Billy Butler grounded into a double play.
The Astros opened the seventh with Pena and J.D. Martinez singles, but failed to score.
NOTES: 2B Jose Altuve singled in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. .Martinez has hit safely in 10 of 12 games, a .307 average in that span. .C Carlos Corporan has a .393 average in his past nine games. . Astros OF Brandon Barnes, who left the game Saturday with left hamstring tightness, did not play Sunday.
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