Mazzaro, Royals tough on A's in rubber game

Mazzaro, Royals tough on A's in rubber game

Mazzaro, Royals tough on A's in rubber game
KANSAS CITY -- Vin Mazzaro did a little sleight of hand on the mound, Alex Gordon worked some of his outfield magic and the Royals made another shutout appear out of thin air.

Mazzaro dodged his way through six scoreless innings against his former club, and the bullpen finished the job against the A's on Sunday for the second 2-0 victory in this series. The Royals won a third straight series by a two-to-one count and have won six of their last eight games.

Eric Hosmer blasted a homer off A's starter Tommy Milone, his first this season off a left-hander, for the Royals' first run. Johnny Giavotella's single knocked in Jarrod Dyson, who'd singled and stole second, with the other run.

But when day was done, the 21,111 fans left Kauffman Stadium talking about the crucial and spectacular play executed by Gordon and catcher Brayan Pena in the fifth inning.

"That was sick, that was unbelievable. Great play by both of them," said Mazzaro, the primary beneficiary.

The A's, after Adam Rosales' walk, Collin Cowgill's single and Cliff Pennington's sacrifice bunt, had runners at second and third with one out in a 1-0 game. That's when Josh Reddick hit a high fly that angled toward foul territory and the stands alongside left field. Rosales tagged up at third base and Gordon charged over, sending the ballboy fleeing with his stool in hand.

"It was just a reaction play," Gordon said. "I thought it was in the stands when he hit it and it crossed my mind -- should I catch it or let it drop? It was one of those bang-bang plays where I caught it, bobbled it and tried to chuck it over his head a little bit and I put it right there."

That meant just over the racing Rosales and into the glove of Pena, who braced for a shoulder blast. In the Royals' dugout, manager Ned Yost, a former catcher, knew what was coming.

"You see those plays develop and you know as soon as it leaves the outfielder's hands you're going to have to wear this -- you're going to have to catch it and you're going to have to take it, and Brayan did that really well," Yost said. "And it was a good hit -- it was out enough that the runner had time to really plow into him."

Rosales knocked Pena flying, and with a leg kick the catcher rolled over on his bald noggin, but he clutched tight to the ball and the inning-ending double play was complete.

"I thought the ball was going to be in the stands and I think everybody else did, too, but the thing that was impressive to me was Alex Gordon didn't give up on it," Yost said. "He caught the ball on the run and made a tremendous dead-on throw to the plate, over the runner. It was a phenomenal play all the way around."

Rosales certainly agreed.

"It had to be a perfect play, perfect catch, perfect throw," Rosales said. "The catcher had to be in the perfect position. Everything went in their favor. Everything went right on that play for them."

Everything went right for Mazzaro as he picked up his second victory in two spot starts. Despite giving up four hits and three walks, he forced the A's to strand six runners and they left the bases loaded in the first inning.

This was Mazzaro's first shot at the A's since they traded him to the Royals for outfielder David DeJesus prior to the 2011 season, so there was some personal satisfaction involved in that aspect of his victory.

"Yeah, a little bit," Mazzaro said. "It's nice to get a start and go out there. I wanted to attack the zone, put up the innings and get to our bullpen and get a win out of it -- and we did. It makes it a little better that it was against my former team."

When Mazzaro was finished, the Royals' bullpen went into shutout action, each right-hander pitching past an A's attempt to come back. Kelvin Herrera shrugged off a two-out single in the seventh inning. Greg Holland got out of a two-on, none-out parry in the eighth. Closer Jonathan Broxton got three groundouts after a leadoff single in the ninth.

"Our whole pitching staff has been great. I know we didn't start out very well, but right now we're just out there eatin' up innings," said Broxton, who ate up his 13th save.

The Royals won the series opener, 2-0, with starter Felipe Paulino working six innings followed by the same relief trio -- Herrera, Holland and Broxton. The second game resulted in a 9-3 A's win.

"I've really got to give credit to the pitching staff, we really didn't do a lot offensively in this whole series," Gordon said.

One hit that caught attention on Sunday was Hosmer's seventh home run, a blast that carried 413 feet over the center-field wall as he led off the second inning against Milone. Hosmer was 2-for-3, adding a single, and had doubled in Saturday's game -- signs that a batting adjustment that he recently made is taking effect.

Hosmer explained that he'd shortened his leg kick just a bit, which has helped him see pitches better and get a better path to the ball. Although Hosmer is second on the team with 27 RBIs, his average is still hovering at .214 so the change in approach -- and results -- was duly noted.

"He looked phenomenal today," Yost said.

And, when Yost looked at the final result, so did everyone else. It was one of those magical days.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.