KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rookie starting pitcher Heath Fillmyer had barely broken a sweat all of Wednesday night when the Cubs managed back-to-back, one-out hits against him in the seventh inning. His pitch count had only just broken 96. He did not seem to want to come out of the game.
Royals manager Ned Yost sauntered out to the Kauffman Stadium mound anyway. Left-handed specialist Tim Hill had begun to warm in the bullpen; he was ready to face the left-handed Kyle Schwarber.
But Yost never signaled for a pitching change. He turned his back on Fillmyer and let the rookie work through this jam.
Two pitches later, Schwarber got his bat underneath a 92 mph fastball and skied it over the infield where shortstop Adalberto Mondesi could trap it for the final out.
Almost 40 minutes later, after Fillmyer had sat on the bench to catch his breath from the best start of his young career, the Royals snapped their six-game losing streak and beat the Cubs 9-0. He emerged from the dugout for the high-five line and was soon ambushed by a Salvy Splash.
Just two weeks ago, Yost sat in his office at Yankee Stadium and told reporters that Fillmyer didn’t have one dominant out-pitch. Fillmyer got by, he said, effectively mixing his 93 mph four-seam fastball with a slider and changeup that hovered in the mid-80s.
On Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, Fillmyer’s curveball was the star. He turned to it five times to get an out, including when he caught Jason Heyward looking at one that fell in on the bottom third of the zone.
But he wielded the rest of his arsenal to his advantage, too. He kept the Cubs off balance most of the night after getting drilled in the heel on a comebacker hit by Cubs leadoff hitter Anthony Rizzo in the first inning. Fillmyer didn’t give up another hit until David Bote and Tommy La Stella poked balls just outside the infield in the seventh inning. He issued two walks and threw one wild pitch.
Fillmyer had retired 11 in a row before he allowed a five-pitch walk to Kyle Schwarber with one out in the fifth inning.
The Royals faced danger in the fifth when shortstop Adalberto Mondesi over-threw an inning-ending double play ball to first baseman Lucas Duda. Cubs outfielder Ian Happ reached first base and tried to advance to second base. But there was no error on the play, as Duda was able to pick up the ball in foul territory and throw it back to Mondesi at second for the final out of the inning.
As the Royals improved to 35-79, their offense came to life against the Cubs’ Jose Quintana. Drew Butera ripped a two-run double down the line to left field in the second inning to open scoring. Quintana settled down and retired 13 of 14 batters over the next 4 1/3 innings. But after Jorge Bonifacio and Brett Phillips hit back to back singles to start the seventh inning, Adalberto Mondesi sent them both home on his fourth homer of the season in the sixth inning, a 437-foot blast. Quintana exited one batter later.