It took Kris Bubic eight starts, but he picked up his first win in the majors. The Kansas City Royals' rookie left-hander held the Pittsburgh Pirates to one run and got enough run support -- with shortstop Adalberto Mondesi having a large hand in that — to get the monkey off his back.
Bubic struck out six in five innings and got crucial strikeouts when he needed them as the Royals extended their win streak to four in a row with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Kauffman Stadium. The four-game win streak ties a season-best for the Royals.
Mondesi homered, walked twice, stole two bases and scored three of the four runs, while star catcher Salvador Perez played in his first game since Aug. 17. Perez went 2 for 4 with a run scored and a double. Maikel Franco had two hits and two RBIs. Hunter Dozier also had two hits in the win for the Royals (18-28).
"It's obviously pretty fun to know you're in the win column," Bubic said. "Without the team effort tonight, getting the early runs, without that this doesn't happen. I'm definitely glad to enjoy it a little bit and glad to celebrate about another win tonight. I'm glad we're on a roll here."
In Bubic's seven previous starts, the Royals scored 11 runs in his 35 innings. That includes six runs in two starts. Bubic's 2.83 average run support was second lowest in the American League (minimum seven starts) entering Friday night.
Mondesi's third homer in his last five days gave the Royals and Bubic a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Mondesi has now hit in eight consecutive games, matching his career-long hitting streak. He's also hit three home runs in his past five games.
"I think it's trying not to swing too hard," Mondesi said of the difference at the plate lately. "Obviously when a guy is up there throwing hard, you want to hit the ball hard. But I think slowing down my swing and just trying to make more contact is helping me a lot."
Bubic pitched out of trouble in the second inning after he gave up a leadoff walk to Colin Moran followed by a single by Josh Bell.
That put runners on the corners with no outs in what was a one-run game at the time.
Bubic struck out each of the next three batters, all swinging. He got Jacob Stallings, Adam Frazier and Cole Tucker to each flail at high fastballs, stranding the runners and preserving the 1-0 lead.
"I'd say through innings two through four, it was probably the worst fastball command I've pretty much had the whole year," Bubic said. "I'm being completely honest.
"A lot of times we are trying to elevate on certain guys. But at the same time, I know when I'm down in the zone and I'm pumping fastballs in the lower quadrant then the change-up is able to play better and the curveball is able to play better. I'm glad to be resilient through those innings and not give in."
A Franco RBI single and a wild pitch that allowed Perez to score from third pushed the Royals' advantage to 3-0 in the third inning.
Bubic wasn't able to work around a leadoff single in the fourth inning in quite the same manner as he did in the second, but he limited the damage. Moran singled to left field. Then Bell singled to right-center to set up another first-and-third situation with no outs.
The second time around, Stallings smacked an RBI double into the left-field corner to make it a 3-1 score. However, Bubic got Frazier to pop up, Tucker to strikeout swinging again, and Erik Gonzalez hit an inning-ending fly ball to center field.
Mondesi practically created an insurance run by himself in the seventh inning. He walked to start the inning, stole second base, stole third and then scored when Franco swatted a pitch through the drawn-in infield on the ground and into right field.
"It's just fun to watch when he's going," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "This is the first time I've been able to see it first-hand when he really is clicking on all cylinders where he's showing some of the power, he's taking the base, getting on base and making this happen. It's a really good day for Mondi today. What a display of his ability."
The Pirates (14-28) scored two runs in the eighth inning off reliever Scott Barlow to make it a one-run game, but Greg Holland retired the side in order in the ninth for his fourth save.