All of a sudden, this whole thing feels very familiar.
The Royals won yet another baseball game on Tuesday night, narrowly beating the Miami Marlins 1-0 to win their ninth game in a row. The recipe was similar to the way this team won games last year: stellar pitching, clutch hitting, and a lights-out bullpen.
Yordano Ventura and Andrew Cashner settled into a pitcher's duel; it was clear from the beginning that runs would be at a premium. The pair of young starters each threw five shutout frames to open the game. Ventura worked in and out of trouble all evening, as six Marlins reached in the first five innings, but none of them came around to score.
In the top of the sixth inning, Cashner finally hit a bump in the road. The Royals managed just four baserunners against him in the first five innings, but in the sixth, Paulo Orlando led off with a walk, just his 10th of the year. He stole second base before Cashner fell behind Lorenzo Cain three balls and no strikes. Looking for a pitch to hit hard, Cain swung on 3-0 and lined a single back up the middle, scoring Orlando for the game's only run.
The Marlins had an opportunity to tie the game in the home half of the sixth when Marcell Ozuna led off with a double in the left-center gap. However, Ventura got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out softly with Ozuna standing at third and just one out, and he escaped the inning entirely by striking out Xavier Scruggs.
Ventura was lifted in the top of the seventh for a pinch-hitter, because NL baseball. His final line: 6.0 innings, six hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. It was his ninth straight start allowing three or fewer runs, and suddenly, Kansas City has won five straight times he's taken the mound.
That nine-start stretch of impressive outings has dropped Ventura's ERA from 5.26 to 4.27. It's just the second time all year that he didn't allow any runs.
Cashner had a similar line to Ventura's, but the difference was he allowed the run. He worked 6.0 innings and allowed four hits and two walks, striking out four Royals on the night.
As for the bullpen, Matt Strahm continued his brilliant stint in the big leagues with a scoreless seventh inning. In just 9.1 big-league innings, he's struck out 17 hitters. That's remarkable.
Joakim Soria allowed a leadoff walk to start the eighth, but he retired the next three Marlins to escape the frame. And in the ninth, Kelvin Herrera finished off the latest Royals win by working a perfect ninth.
Ventura earned the win to even his record to 9-9. Cashner took the loss, dropping him to 4-10. Herrera earned his eighth save in eight opportunities.
Kansas City has won 12 of 13, and for the first time since July 3, the team is five games above .500. The Royals are 65-60. Oh yeah, and the team is 14-2 since that Rally Mantis first appeared in the dugout.
Tomorrow: to extend their winning streak to double digits, the Royals face a stern test, as they will face Miami ace Jose Fernandez (12-7, 3.05 ERA, and already 204 strikeouts). He will be opposed by Dillon Gee (5-6, 4.52), who is coming off his best start of the season last week against the Twins.