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Royals post shutout to finish sweep

Royals post shutout to finish sweep

KANSAS CITY -- Needing a dependable fifth starter and another victory, the Royals turned to a player they nearly traded in late June and had made just one Major League start in his career.

Leo Nunez.

And he delivered. Nunez tossed six shutout innings for his first Major League win in nearly two years and first as a starter to help the Royals beat the Rangers, 10-0, on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.

"I think it was the best ever," Nunez said through translator Octavio Dotel. "I was locating all of my pitches. I was using [the] fastball, change and slider and put everything together for my six innings."

Nunez's performance and the surging offense helped Kansas City, 0-3 on this homestand after Wednesday, sweep the Rangers and finish 4-3 against New York and Texas. The Royals are 9-7 since the All-Star break.

"To get back and win the last four was outstanding," manager Buddy Bell said. "I thought our guys showed a lot of character. A lot of guys contributed like today. We had a lot of guys get big hits and ran the bases great; [we] got men over and got men in. We did just about everything perfect today."

Kansas City scored at least six runs in all four wins, including 10 on Sunday, its first game in double figures since July 20. Overall, the Royals had two shutouts and outscored opponents, 29-6, in the four wins.

Sunday yielded offense from several different sources. Every starter reached base and four players -- Tony Pena, David DeJesus, Ross Gload and Mark Teahen -- enjoyed multi-hit games.

Teahen, 2-for-19 on the homestand before Sunday, enjoyed his second three-hit game in July. Moved to sixth in the lineup for the first time this season, Teahen went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored.

"I guess there are hits in the sixth hole," he said with a smile. "Hitting is not that easy. For the most part, I just tried to stay with my approach and get a good pitch to hit rather than worry about what they were going to give me."

Nunez provided the backbone with the team's fourth straight outstanding starting pitching performance. Nearly dealt for the Athletics' Milton Bradley on June 23, Nunez stayed with the team when Bradley said he was injured. And Nunez, who was injured the first part of the season, continued to learn how to pitch in the Minors.

"This year, I've got more control with the fastball," Nunez said. "Last year, I was more out of the zone, but this year I was more focused on what I wanted to do and where I wanted to locate the pitches. That was the big move. Don't just throw it. Make good pitches."

It worked July 17, when Nunez made a spot start and tossed four innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Sunday yielded a little better. Nunez, called up Sunday morning to replace Jason Shiell, impressed again.

"Command, stuff, everything," Bell said about what made Nunez so effective. "It just seemed like he was in control from the very first pitch. Just from the standpoint of being aggressive and throwing strikes, you can't do much better than that."

Nunez made the longest appearance of his big league career and won his first big league game since Sept. 4, 2005. He retired 12 of the first 13 hitters and allowed just four baserunners in six innings. Only one Rangers baserunner reached second base all game.

"He was mixing up his fastballs -- throwing two different fastballs -- mixing in his slider and a pretty good changeup," the Rangers' Mark Teixeira said. "He kept us off balance. Throwing 95 [mph] doesn't hurt."

Bell said Nunez will make his next schedule start and the young right-hander has emerged as a possible fixture as the team's No. 5 starter. With several pitching prospects not ready for Major League work and Brandon Duckworth and John Thomson on the disabled list, Nunez could have several chances to replicate Sunday's performance.

Nunez's start was also the fourth straight terrific outing by a Kansas City starter. The rotation has posted a collective 1.11 ERA during the four-game win streak.

"It gives us an opportunity to put up some runs and not have to do too much," Teahen said.

However, the offense did plenty. Royals hitters tallied four runs in the second off four doubles and a walk. Kansas City tacked on two more in the sixth on RBI singles from Pena and DeJesus and another four in the eighth.

Nunez's pitching and the offensive attack assured the team's second straight winning month. It's the first time Kansas City has won back-to-back months since 2003.

"It's been a grueling month," Bell said. "We just need to continue playing like we have."

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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