KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Breaking down last year’s record, the Royals didn’t reach the postseason because of their success at home, three games above .500.
They barely broke even against their Central Division rivals.
But the Royals dominated the National League, finishing with baseball’s best interleague record.
They’re off to a good start this season thanks to Yordano Ventura’s best pitching effort to date and the second strong starting performance in as many games in a 3-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.
Ventura (3-3) pitched seven scoreless innings and collected his first victory since April 12, when he won his second straight start.
There had been three losses, two no decisions and a couple of temper tantrums since then.
“I felt very good, the best I felt. I was throwing all my pitches for strikes,” said Ventura through interpreter Christian Colon.
The effort followed Edinson Volquez’s seven scoreless innings in Sunday’s 6-0 victory over the Yankees and allowed the Royals to extend their lead in the American League Central over the Detroit Tigers by 2 1/2 games. The Twins remain three games behind.
The Royals hadn’t shut out an opponent this season until Sunday and now their pitchers have recorded two straight, and that hasn’t happened since 1992.
Ventura pitched the seventh inning in discomfort, and that’s why having thrown only 88 pitches, he was removed.
Ventura cut his hand with a fingernail while throwing a breaking ball at Texas last week. Ventura had no trouble with it Tuesday, until the sixth.
“I started to feel something,” Ventura said. “They said just get ready for your next start.”
Kelvin Herrera pitched the eighth and Wade Davis a perfect ninth for his seventh save, and he ran his streak of consecutive innings without having surrendered a home run to 100.
Closer Greg Holland woke up Tuesday with a stiff neck and was unavailable to pitch, manager Ned Yost said. Trainers worked on him throughout the game. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” Yost said Tuesday.
Ventura worked out of trouble in the third after surrendering singles to Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco to open the inning. They were advanced a base each on a sacrifice and the Reds were back to the top of the order.
Zack Cozart’s two-hopper to third baseman Mike Moustakas froze the runners and they remained stranded when Brayan Pena, the former Royals catcher, whiffed on a full count.
That was the only inning the Reds put more than one runner on base. Ventura was in control all night.
“He stayed within his mechanics wonderfully,” Yost said. “He was really on top of his game tonight.”
Ventura outdueled Reds ace Johnny Cueto (3-4), who couldn’t solve Moustakas.
Moustakas became the first player this season to collect three hits off Cueto in a game, and two of his doubles scored runs.
Paulo Orlando opened the fifth inning with a single to center. He took second on Alcides Escobar’s sacrifice and scored when Moustakas roped a double into the right field corner.
Two innings later, Omar Infante singled and two outs later Moustakas went the other way, doubling to the left field gap.
Moustakas had never faced Cueto, and that’s an advantage to the hitter, Moose said.
“It’s almost an advantage because he doesn’t know you that well either,” Moustakas said. “A guy like that, you have to stay on his fastball. We did a good job sticking to the plan today.”
The Royals jumped ahead in the third as Eric Hosmer singled and Kendrys Morales walked after falling behind in the count 0-2.
The inning’s momentum slowed when Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez struck out. But Infante worked a full count before lining a single to left field plating Hosmer.
There’s no particular reason for the Royals’ winning 15 of 20 games against National League opponents last season.
“It was just the way it went,” Yost said before the game. “We were playing well at the time.”
Or several times with interleague game spread across the schedule. There were no signs of impending success when the Royals crossed leagues last season. They lost their first game, to the Padres in San Diego, and the Royals hadn’t turned a winning record against the National League since 2008. But they swept the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks and took three of four from the Colorado Rockies and the St. Louis Cardinals.