Vin Mazzaro didn't strike out a single batter and walked five, three of them leading off an inning — not exactly a recipe for success.
What got him going through seven scoreless innings was the fact that his defense turned five double plays in Kansas City's 9-0 rout of the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday in the rubber game of the three-game series.
"I felt great out there, commanding my fastball on both sides of the plate and running it in on the hands," Mazzaro said. "I gave them some free passes, but I made some good pitches when I needed to and got the groundballs. I just wanted to keep attacking the zone, let the guys behind me do the job."
Mazzaro (1-1) scattered five hits in his third start with Kansas City. He pitched to contact throughout the game, inducing double-play grounders by Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo and Bobby Abreu. Hank Conger lined into the other one. All five DPs were started by shortstop Alcides Escobar.
"Vin pitched a great game today," said Royals rookie first baseman Eric Hosmer, who finished with 11 putouts. "Whenever guys were on base he was getting that slider and sinker down, getting them to roll over on it. That's why we turned so many double plays. He was pitching to contact and did a great job for us."
The Royals' 24-year-old right-hander also escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh by retiring Peter Bourjos on a fielder's choice with his 102nd pitch.
"This is the Mazzaro we saw last year that we wanted to trade for — a guy that can change speeds, get you off balance and command the baseball," manager Ned Yost said. "That's a good offense over there, and they can put runs on the board in a hurry. They're just stale right now and they're struggling to score runs."
Blake Wood worked the final two innings, helping send the Angels to their ninth shutout loss — matching their total from all of last season.
"It's hard to believe, especially because of the lineup we have," Abreu said. "The way we're swinging, all of the pitchers look a little tougher. I don't want to offend anyone, but we haven't hit the way we're supposed to hit."
Mazzaro came in with a whopping 17.47 ERA after giving up 22 earned runs, 25 hits and eight walks in just 11 1-3 innings this season spanning three appearances. Most of that damage came during his only relief outing on May 16 against Cleveland, when he surrendered 14 runs and 11 hits over 2 1-3 innings in the Royals' 19-1 loss and was optioned to Triple-A right after that game.
"Basically I focused on throwing first-pitch strikes down there, attacking the zone and not trying to nibble on the corners," Mazzaro said. "When you can throw all of your pitches over for strikes, good things are going to happen. It's a good step forward."
The last time the Angels hit into this many double plays in a nine-inning game was Aug. 3, 2004, when Minnesota executed six against.
"Mazzaro was throwing sinkers and a pretty good slider, and we didn't make good contact," Abreu said. "Sometimes he came up with a changeup, and he threw almost everything middle-away. No one struck out today, but we didn't produce any runs."
Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Chris Getz each drove in two runs for the Royals, who won seven of their 10 meetings with the Angels — just the second time they've taken a season series from them in the last 15 years. It was their highest victory total against the Halos since 1996, when they won eight of 12.
Rookie Tyler Chatwood (3-4) threw 82 pitches in 3 2-3 innings, giving up five runs, five hits and three walks while the Angels lost for the seventh time in eight games. The Royals got their first run in the second inning when Mitch Maier drew a leadoff walk and was balked home by the right-hander, chased during Kansas City's four-run fourth.
Matt Treanor hit an RBI double and Getz followed with the first of his two run-scoring singles. Treanor was thrown out at the plate on a grounder to first by Escobar, but Gordon lined an 0-2 pitch to left-center for a double that scored two runs and gave Kansas City a 5-0 cushion before Hisanori Takahashi was summoned from the bullpen.
This was the third straight start by Chatwood in which his teammates didn't score while he was in the game.
NOTES: Hunter's double-play grounder was his 18th, the most in the majors, and just four shy of his total last season with 92 games left on the schedule. ... ... The Halos hit the road for their next 12 games, two wins shy of 4,000 for the franchise during the regular season. The trip ends with three games up the freeway at Dodger Stadium. ... Mazzaro, who pitched for Oakland the previous two seasons, came in 1-2 lifetime against the Angels with a 5.92 ERA. ... Angels TV analyst Mark Gubicza, who spent the 1997 season with the Halos and was a member of the Royals' 1985 World Series championship team, threw a ceremonial first pitch. ... The switch-hitting Callaspo is batting .268 with five homers and 41 RBIs in 120 games with the Angels after joining them in a trade from Kansas City on July 22, 2010. In three seasons with the Royals, he hit .293 with 19 homers and 132 RBIs in 317 games.