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Cotton dazzles as As spoil Royals home opener with win
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Oakland starter Jharel Cotton kept getting interrupted during his warmups Monday, first by Melissa Ethridge rocking out the National Anthem, then by a flyover from a B2 bomber, and finally by an emotional tribute to the late Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura.
It was the only time Cotton ever looked out of sync.
The young pitcher breezed through seven innings, allowing a pair of singles and three walks, and got just enough offense from Khris Davis’ two-run homer to help the Athletics spoil Kansas City’s home opener with a 2-0 victory at sun-splashed Kauffman Stadium.
“He was outstanding. He seemed so calm and poised,” said Cotton’s catcher, Stephen Vogt. “For him to keep his focus and be ready to go — we had a really good game plan and he executed it beautifully.”
Cotton (1-1) turned the game over to Santiago Casilla, who struck out the side in the eighth. Sean Doolittle then put runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth, but he bounced back to strike out his former teammate and good friend Brandon Moss for his first save of the season.
It was the seventh straight win for the A’s over Kansas City.
Asked about Cotton, Royals manager Ned Yost said simply: “He was dynamite.”
Davis provided all the offense Oakland needed when he followed a leadoff single by Ryon Healy with his fourth homer of the year. The shot to right field on a 3-0 pitch from Ian Kennedy (0-2) barely scraped over the wall, but it gave Cotton the only help he needed against a punchless Kansas City lineup.
“I was falling behind on him, trying to get him to chase a little bit. Then I tried to get a fastball by him,” Kennedy said. “The wind was blowing out so hard and ball hit that high, it just took off.”
The home opener had a somber feeling even before the Royals’ bats went quiet, starting with a tear-filled tribute to Ventura. The young pitcher, an instrumental part of back-to-back World Series trips, was killed in an offseason car crash in the Dominican Republic.
Kennedy pitched well on the mound where Ventura once dazzled, allowing only two hits and two walks over six innings. But the mistake he threw to Davis proved to be decisive.
Cotton, who was battered by the Angels in his season debut, effortlessly sliced through the Kansas City order. He got a double play to end the second, struck out the side in the fifth, then induced a pair of fly outs in the sixth after an error on a double-play ball gave the Royals life.
Cotton proceeded to breeze through the seventh before handing the game to his bullpen.
“We’ve seen him pitch really good games, but the pressure of that game, full house, sometimes the nerves can get to you,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said, “but he was on it right from the start.”
The Royals left Ventura’s locker empty except for a framed jersey, and memorials to him were just about everywhere inside Kauffman Stadium. His mother, Marisol Hernandez, threw out the ceremonial first pitch after a saxophonist standing on the mound played a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
The Royals were shut out in their home opener for the second time, losing to the Twins 2-0 in 1971. They had won their last four home openers. ... The A’s seven-game win streak against Kansas City matches the longest in franchise history. ... Royals RHP Peter Moylan pitched two perfect innings, extending his scoreless streak to seven. ... Doolittle’s save was his first since June 23, 2016.
Oakland RHP Sonny Gray (right lat injury) threw a bullpen session Monday and will throw to hitters Thursday, manager Bob Melvin said. Gray hopes to be ready by the end of the month. ... RHP Chris Bassitt (elbow surgery) reported no problems after throwing to hitters on Sunday at Class A Stockton, but Melvin said he’s not sure what the next step will be in Bassitt’s rehab.
Oakland: RHP Andrew Triggs tries to build on a strong season debut when the series resumes after a day off. Triggs allowed one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings in a 5-1 win over the Angeles.
Kansas City: RHP Jason Hammel allowed three runs on six hits in five innings against Minnesota in his first start for the Royals last week. He gets the start at the K on Wednesday night.
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