It wasn’t just a lucky seventh try Saturday night by Ervin Santana that, finally, produced his 100th career victory. It was, instead, that he received some long overdue run support.
Seven runs of support — now there’s a lucky seven — as the Royals rolled to a 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros at Kauffman Stadium. That makes four straight victories overall and clinched a second straight series win.
Santana (4-5) didn’t waste the support. He limited the Astros to one hit — one runner — over the first five innings while the Royals built a 6-0 lead in front of a crowd of 28,055 on gorgeous late spring night.
How overdue was all this?
The Royals averaged just 2.68 runs through Santana’s first 11 starts while he was on the mound — the lowest run support for any qualifying American League pitcher. (James Shields ranks third on that list, by the way.)
This was Santana’s seventh bid for No. 100; the previous six resulted in four losses and two no-decisions despite a 3.92 ERA in that span.
Santana permitted two runs and five hits in seven innings, which nudged his season’s ERA down to 2.99, before handing a five-run lead to J.C. Gutierrez, who closed out the victory with two scoreless innings.
The Royals roughed up Houston starter Erik Bedard (1-3) for six runs in 4 2/3 innings. They scored twice in first inning, three times in the fourth and once in knocking him out in the fifth.
Santana had allowed just one hit prior to Brandon Barnes’ two-out double in the sixth inning. Santana lost his shutout when Jose Altuve followed with a seeing-eye grounder up the middle for an RBI single.
The Astros clawed closer on Chris Carter’s one-out homer in the seventh, but that was it. And, so, the Royals continue to show signs of shaking their May malaise.
This makes six victories in nine games following a 4-19 collapse and, coincidence or not, the 6-3 run began when George Brett became the interim hitting coach.
The attack hummed from the start, too
David Lough, batting leadoff and playing left field in place of Alex Gordon, opened the Royals’ first with a line single to center and took second when Barnes bobbled the ball.
Lough held on Alcides Escobar’s bouncer to the mound but scored easily when Salvy Perez rammed an RBI single into center. After Billy Butler flied to deep right, Eric Hosmer sliced a drive into the left-field corner.
J.D. Martinez never got there. The ball fell for an RBI double, but Hosmer was thrown out when trying to turn it into a triple. Even so, Santana had a 2-0 lead.
Some perspective: When Santana took the mound in the second inning, he pitched with a lead for the first time since the sixth inning on May 18 at Oakland.
The Royals threatened for more runs in the second after putting runners at first and second with no outs, but Bedard retired Jeff Francoeur on a pop, struck out Elliot Johnson and got Lough to ground out to third.
Santana set down the first seven Astros before Matt Dominguez grounded a one-out single up the middle in the third. Santana then retired the next 10 batters in order.
The Royals put their first two batters on base again in the fourth inning when Hosmer singled, and Lorenzo Cain followed with a walk. Miguel Tejada yanked an RBI single through the left side for a 3-0 lead.
Francoeur’s double into the right-field corner added another run and put runners on second and third with no outs. A walk to Johnson to loaded the bases, but the Royals settled for just one more run.
Lough grounded into a run-scoring double play before Escobar.
Even so, the five-run lead was the Royals’ biggest margin since they led 9-4 in the eighth inning on May 15 at Los Angeles. That game finished 9-5 with the Angels scoring their final run on a Mike Trout homer.
It was that homer when Jarrod Dyson suffered a high ankle sprain while climbing the center-field wall. That’s memorable because the Royals lost 12 of their next 13.
Santana followed the three-run burst with a shutdown inning, aided by a web-gem play from Escobar, who ranged far up the middle to grab Trevor Crowe’s two-out grounder. A strong throw ended the inning.
The Royals made it 6-0 after Hosmer worked a two-out walk in the fifth. Cain drove a full-count change-up into the right-center gap for an RBI double that finished Bedard.
Brian Peacock got the final out in the inning.
After the Astros closed to within 6-2, the Royals scored the game’s final run on Cain’s fielder’s-choice grounder in the seventh. The lucky seven.