Cotton shows tremendous stuff vs. Royals

Righty rides well-located fastball early and nasty changeup late

Cotton shows tremendous stuff vs. Royals

KANSAS CITY -- Amid a steady wind howling through Kauffman Stadium in the early hours of Monday evening, A's right-hander Jharel Cotton breezed through a stellar seven-inning outing, neutralizing the Royals in a 2-0 series-opening victory.

Cotton held them to just two hits, spoiling their home opener and dazzling along the way.

"All-around stud up there," said Khris Davis, who provided just enough offensive support by way of a two-run homer.

"I came into this game telling myself I probably have 90-100 pitches and I want to throw each and every one of them with 100 percent conviction, and I did that," Cotton said. "That was my plan for today, and I executed that plan."

Cotton strikes out Escobar

The Royals flailed at his bread-and-butter changeup, which he flashed with might in the later innings after establishing a well-located fastball in the early going. The 25-year-old racked up six strikeouts in the outing and worked around three walks, including a leadoff free pass to Eric Hosmer in the seventh.

Hosmer reached second with one out on a wild pitch, putting the Royals in position to get on the board, but Cotton got former A's slugger Brandon Moss on strikes and drew a weak fly ball from Paulo Orlando to shut down the threat.

"He was outstanding, so calm and poised," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "He came out of the gates ready to go."

Cotton finished the seventh inning -- tying a career high -- at 98 pitches, 14 more than he used in his season debut against the Angels last week. The results also differed greatly, as Cotton yielded five runs in just 4 1/3 innings last week, afterward hearing from several teammates that he wasn't finishing his pitches.

Cotton worked to correct this in his side sessions leading up to Monday's outing.

"I think he just settled in quick," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We've seen him when he gets on a roll early, he's tough to deal with. If you get him out of his rhythm, then it's a little more of a challenge for him. But to go seven innings like that and go through that lineup like that, that was the best we've seen him pitch."

"To have a bounce-back outing like that in this environment, Opening Day here, a lot of energy in the stadium, that's huge," added Sean Doolittle, who picked up the save. "For him to have that kind of poise and maturity, that's a really good sign. Huge day for him."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.