KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Ervin Santana plans to give the ball from his 100th career win to his mother.
It’s a gift that’s been a long time coming.
Santana pitched seven snappy innings in his seventh attempt to reach the milestone, and the Royals finally gave him enough support in a 7-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night that also gave Kansas City its fourth consecutive win.
“It’s a dream come true. I’m just very excited for it,” Santana said of the win. “It’s a long process, a lot of bad outings and a lot of good outings. It feels good to get there.”
Santana (4-5) entered the game with the worst run support among qualifying pitchers in the American League, a big reason why he already had six fruitless tries to win his 100th game.
He finally made thanks to a seemingly endless series of singles and doubles off the Astros’ Erik Bedard (1-3), who failed to make it through the fifth inning.
“Santana pitched good. He was throwing strikes, getting people off balance and getting outs,” Bedard said. “On the contrary, when I pitched they got hits and scored runs.”
Santana allowed five hits in seven innings, striking out six without a walk. The only damage he allowed came on an RBI single by Jose Altuve and a solo homer by Chris Carter.
“He was commanding his fastball extremely well, good slider he kept down and on the outside of the plate. Good speed on his breaking ball. But command more than anything else,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He just looked dominant at times.”
Kansas City had been averaging 2.68 runs per nine innings in games Santana started, and it hadn’t scored more than four runs for him before Saturday night.
But the offense has been coming alive in the nine games since Hall of Famer George Brett took over as interim hitting coach. The Royals have put up at least four runs in each of their four wins, and that’s no negligible feat: They improved to 20-5 when scoring at least four times.
The result of the Royals’ recently improved production has been just their third four-game winning streak of the year and their first since April 30-May 5.
It didn’t take long for them to strike Saturday night, either.
David Lough led off the game with a single and motored into second when centerfielder Brandon Barnes bobbled the ball. Lough scored on a base hit by Salvador Perez, and he in turn came around on a double by Hosmer that was helped into the left-field corner by some gusting wind.
The Royals added three more in the fourth when Bedard put the first five batters on base. The runs came on an RBI single by Miguel Tejada, a runs-scoring double by Jeff Francoeur and a bases-loaded, double-play groundout by Lough that made it 5-0.
Kansas City tacked on another in the fifth when Hosmer worked a two-out walk and Lorenzo Cain hit a two-out pitch into the gap in right, knocking Bedard from the game.
It was a forgettable 200th career start for the left-hander, who gave up six runs in 4 2-3 innings. It certainly bore little resemblance to his last time out, when Bedard allowed just one run over seven innings in a win over the Angels.
“I think Erik, even though he battled, there were some plays that probably should have been made that were not made,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “Make no excuse about it, he battled.”
Santana had no such trouble against the light-hitting Astros, who only had one hit over the first five innings and didn’t push a run across until there were two out in the sixth.
Carter’s homer came in the seventh inning.
Otherwise, Santana was in control all night. He struck out at least one in each of the first five innings, and picked up his first victory since beating Cleveland on April 27.
“Most of us just found out tonight. A hundred wins, that’s unbelievable, man,” Hosmer said. “This is a tough league. If you get to 100 wins, that means you’ve had a long career.”