Published November 20, 2014
Bryan Bullington finally has a major league win.
The soft-spoken right-hander who wondered more than once during long bus rides through the minors if he should find something else to do shut out the defending world champion New York Yankees on two hits through eight innings Sunday afternoon.
Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth, the Kansas City Royals beat the Yankees 1-0, and Bullington felt like, finally, he had arrived.
"Yeah, today it feels like it," he said. "I'm 29. Creeping up on 30. I've been kind of plodding along, been down the last couple of years. It feels really good today, that's for sure."
Bullington (1-2) walked one and struck out five to outpitch A.J. Burnett (9-10), who yielded only four hits and one run in eight innings.
"It's a long time coming," said Bullington, who was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2002 but also spent time with Cleveland and Toronto before signing on as a minor league free agent with Kansas City last November.
"I had a few brief (major league) stints," Bullington said, "but this is the first time I myself believe I belong here and can pitch at this level."
Alex Rodriguez, who homered in his final three at-bats Saturday night, gave Bullington a scare leading off the second. His drive to deep center drove Gregor Blanco almost to the wall, but A-Rod went down quietly the rest of the way.
"When it left the bat, you could tell he hit it pretty well," Bullington said. "But there was enough wind coming in that Gregor was able to get back on it."
It gave Joe Girardi a start, too.
"I thought it was gone when he hit it," said the Yankees manager.
One day after everyone in the New York lineup got at least one hit in an 8-3 victory, the Yankees, facing a pitcher they'd never seen, were shut out for the sixth time.
"The first time through, I thought we hit some balls hard," Girardi said. "Then after that maybe he wasn't in the middle of the plate. He used his slider effectively. He used his changeup. He threw some 3-2 off-speed pitches."
The Royals' only run off Burnett was earned, but helped along by a Yankee error.
Willie Bloomquist singled in the first, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Francisco Cervelli before Billy Butler's RBI single.
Burnett walked three and struck out six in one of his best outings.
"I was having fun out there today pretty much," he said. "I gave up the one early. Me and Cervelli got on a good pace. It was a fun game to be part of. Bryan kept us off balance and pitched a heckuva game. That's basically the story. "
Robinson Cano grounded a single into right field with one out in the fifth to become the first Yankees baserunner, and was erased on a 3-6-1 double play. Brett Gardner singled with one out in the sixth but was thrown out trying to steal.
The only other baserunner Bullington allowed was Marcus Thames, who walked with one out in the eighth while batting for designated hitter Lance Berkman. Berkman stumbled going across the bag in the fifth inning and left with a sprained right ankle.
Soria pitched a perfect ninth and extended his club record with his 26th consecutive save. He has 33 saves in 35 chances.
Bullington was making his 20th major league appearance and seventh career start.
"It's taken him a long time," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "He was touted as a high prospect a couple of times in different organizations, but sometimes you find a late bloomer."
Yost said he noticed a distinct change in Bullington when he was brought up from Triple-A Omaha for the second time this season on July 28.
"He's gotten to the point he's a totally different guy. Last time he seemed unsure of himself, he seemed unconfident. And we sent him down," Yost said. "It was a different mindset when he got back here. He was confident, on the attack, trusting his stuff."
Bullington, the loser in a 3-1 setback to the Angels in his first start on Aug. 10, said "determined" is a good way to describe him now.
"I'm to the point where I don't want to kick it around in Triple-A for another four or five years. I know if I'm going to do this, I want to do it now and I want to get in a situation where I can pitch and hopefully fit in."
NOTES: Royals RHP Gil Meche might make a rehab start soon, still hoping to return in September as a reliever. Meche has been on the DL since May 29 with right shoulder bursitis. ... Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte will try to go through a pitch-and-catch progression Tuesday and if that goes well, possibly pitch in a simulated game on Friday. ... The Yankees are in a stretch where they play 35 games in 36 days.