KANSAS CITY – Rising to the occasion in front of a packed crowd for the Royals’ home opener, Jharel Cotton delivered his finest start as a major leaguer.
The rookie limited the home team to two hits over seven innings as the A’s blanked Kansas City 2-0 to open a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Coming off a lackluster first start against the Angels, Cotton summoned the poise and command that marked his impressive September debut last season.
He was particularly dialed in with his changeup, getting Royals to chase his go-to offering all game. The odd 3:15 p.m. start (local time) made for mid-game shadows in front of the mound that made things no easier for hitters.
Cotton tied his career-high in innings pitched and enjoyed his first scoreless outing as a big leaguer. He struck out six and walked three.
The A’s got the only runs they would need on Khris Davis’ two-run homer off Ian Kennedy (0-2) in the fourth.
The afternoon began in emotional fashion for the Royals, who honored pitcher Yordano Ventura with a lengthy pregame ceremony. Ventura died in an offseason car crash in the Dominican Republic.
Starting pitching report
The Royals never advance a runner past second off Cotton (1-1). He struck out the side in the fifth, getting the Royals to wave at fastballs and off-speed stuff out of the zone. He benefited from a 5-4-3 double play to end the second and pitched around a leadoff walk in the seventh.
The relief corps picked up where Cotton left off to salt away his victory. Santiago Casilla struck out the side in the eighth. With lefties due up for two of Kansas City’s first three hitters in the ninth, manager Bob Melvin called on Sean Doolittle for the ninth. A walk and a single, mixed in with strikeouts of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer put runners on the corners with two outs. But Doolittle got former Athletic Brandon Moss swinging to end it.
At the plate
Davis got aggressive on a 3-0 count against Kennedy and hit a towering shot to right-center that rode the jet stream and carried over the wall for a two-run shot, his fourth homer of the season. The only other players with four homers to start the day were the Royals’ Salvador Perez and Houston’s George Springer.
In the field
The A’s missed out on a double play in the sixth on a replay reversal, as video showed Trevor Plouffe pulled his foot off the second-base bag while trying to make the turn. The third baseman was shifted over behind second base for the start of the play. Cotton got out of the inning unscored upon anyway.
After a day off Tuesday, the A’s and Royals resume this three-game series with a 5:15 p.m. game Wednesday. Andrew Triggs (1-0, 0.00), coming off a strong first start of the season, goes for the A’s with Jason Hammel (0-0, 5.40) throwing for Kansas City.