Anaheim, Calif. Once the Kansas City Royals weathered the opening-day hype around Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels, the majors’ youngest team calmly showed why baseball might want to start getting excited about it, too.
Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler homered and drove in three runs apiece, and the Royals beat the Angels, 7-3, Sunday, taking two of three in their season-opening series.
Jonathan Sanchez (1-0) survived through five innings to win his first start with the Royals, who dampened the revamped Angels’ much-hyped home debut with two victories after getting shut out on Friday. For a club with 16 losing seasons in the last 17 years, the weekend was undeniably exciting.
“We had one bad inning in the whole series, really,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said, referring to the Angels’ five-run eighth Friday night. “Besides that, we played great. ... We knew there would be a lot of hype. They’ve got a phenomenal team, and we knew it would be a big challenge, but we stood up and played them extremely well.”
Butler hit a two-run homer off Ervin Santana (0-1) in the first inning that barely eluded Peter Bourjos’ glove at the center field wall, and Hosmer added a two-run shot in the fifth before scoring his third run of the day on Butler’s double in the seventh. Hosmer, the Royals’ prized 22-year-old first baseman, also homered Saturday, getting off to a dynamic start to his first full major league season.
“It was a good test for our ball team,” Hosmer said. “I think this was a big statement for us to take two of three. It was big for our team to bounce back and take the series.”
Sanchez allowed four hits and three walks, but was resilient in his debut for the Royals, who acquired him last November in a trade with San Francisco for Melky Cabrera.
Pujols went 2 for 3 with a double and two walks, driving in his first run for the Angels with a first-inning groundout. Los Angeles’ new $240 million slugger went 3 for 10 with two doubles in his first three games at Angel Stadium.
Vernon Wells homered in the eighth, but Los Angeles again struggled defensively, foundered at the plate with runners in scoring position (0 for 13) and didn’t get what’s expected from its vaunted starting rotation after Santana yielded seven hits and six runs while failing to get out of the sixth inning.
“There’s a lot of things that went south in the last two games,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They have a good offensive club, but if you make your pitches, you’re going to pitch well against them, as Jered (Weaver) showed in Game 1.
After Weaver blanked the Royals for eight innings on opening day, the Angels’ next two pitchers haven’t lived up to their billing. Kansas City battered Dan Haren on Saturday, and Santana allowed a runner to reach scoring position in all but one of his 5 2-3 innings.
“(Santana) looked a little out of sync in his delivery, and he wasn’t able to repeat pitches,” Scioscia said. “His ball-strike ratio was terrible, and when he got into a tough part of the game, he was behind everybody. Those guys got some fastballs to hit, and they didn’t miss them.”
Wells snapped a 1-for-11 start to his season with a homer into the bullpen off Kelvin Herrera, but Crow stopped the Angels’ rally, stranding two runners in scoring position. Howie Kendrick and Pujols reached base to open the ninth, but Jonathan Broxton relieved Aaron Crow and struck out Torii Hunter, Wells and Kendrys Morales for an impressive finish to his first save for the Royals.
“It’s not a concern. The talent is there,” said Mark Trumbo, who had two hits. “I mean, who’s to say we can’t go on a real nice run on this road trip? I think everyone is actually swinging the bat well. We just haven’t had a tremendous amount of luck with runners in scoring position just yet.”
Trumbo, the Angels’ new third baseman, mishandled a grounder in the sixth inning for his third error in three games. Trumbo led Los Angeles in homers and RBIs as a rookie last season, but is trying to learn a new position on the job after Pujols supplanted him at first base.
NOTES: New Angels LHP C.J. Wilson debuts on Monday at Minnesota when Los Angeles opens a six-game trip against the Twins and Yankees. ... Kansas City is headed up the California coast to Oakland, opening a three-game series with Luis Mendoza on the mound Monday night. ... Angels catchers Chris Iannetta and Bobby Wilson both celebrated their 29th birthdays.