Kansas City, Mo. Bruce Chen kept pumping in strikes Tuesday night, and his defense loved it.
Chen pitched eight crisp innings and Alex Gordon homered, leading the Kansas City Royals to a 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Chen (11-7) allowed two singles, struck out eight and walked one. He was 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA in his previous two starts.
“It’s tough to put balls in play solidly against him when he’s on and he was on tonight,” said third baseman Mike Moustakas, who homered in the second. “It’s fun to watch a guy like that and play defense when he’s in a zone the way he was tonight.
“He goes out and dominates. He does what he does. Each pitch was exactly where he wanted.”
Ben Revere and Danny Valencia had Minnesota’s only hits off Chen, who improved to 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA in 16 career games against the Twins. Revere, who stole second after his leadoff single in the first, was the only Twins runner to reach second.
Chen, who threw 82 of his season-high 119 pitches for strikes, also got some help from his defense. Johnny Giavotella made an over-the-shoulder grab of Jason Kubel’s fly to shallow right in the second and Melky Cabrera robbed Valencia of extra bases with a diving catch to end the eighth.
“My teammates played real good defense behind me and Salvador called a real good game,” Chen said, praising rookie catcher Salvador Perez. “I threw all my pitches and I was commanding the baseball. I throw a lot of (different) pitches. I have to, to make my fastball look like it’s 90-91. I have to make sure I have a lot of deception and use a lot of pitches. I just want to pound the strike zone.”
Louis Coleman yielded a single to Joe Mauer while finishing the Royals’ sixth shutout of the season.
Kansas City finished with 12 hits. Gordon went 3 for 5 and drove in two runs, including a leadoff drive off Carl Pavano in the third for his 22nd homer.
Moustakas, who led the minors last year with 36 home runs, connected for his second big league home run and first at Kauffman Stadium. Moustakas went 281 at-bats since his June 11 home run at Los Angeles.
“The homer-less drought was not the first time and it’s definitely not going to be the last,” Moustakas said.
Eric Hosmer, another one of Kansas City’s prized prospects, drove in Cabrera with a grounder in the third. Cabrera doubled and advanced to third on left fielder Joe Benson’s throwing error to set up the run.
Pavano (8-12), who won his first two September starts, allowed four runs, three earned, and 11 hits in seven innings. That pushed his innings total to 200, the second straight year he has reached that mark.
“I don’t think we hit a ball hard all night,” Pavano said. “Bruce kept our guys off the bases and I couldn’t keep them off the bases.”
The Twins, who have lost 18 of 22, dropped three games behind the Royals in the battle for last in the AL Central. The Twins have won the past two division titles, while the Royals have finished last the past two seasons.
The Twins have hit .149 and scored seven runs while losing the first four games on their road trip.
“He was mixing it up, showing a lot of different angles, throwing a lot of breaking balls and changeups.” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Chen. “I think our guys were saying it best — not one of his pitches goes straight.”