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Bannister lights-out in Royals win

Bannister lights-out in Royals win

KANSAS CITY -- One of Brian Bannister's favorite pitchers is Mark Buehrle. The White Sox All-Star isn't a fireballer, but he constantly works deep into games and throws 200-plus quality innings every season.

That's the type of pitcher Bannister has been for the past six weeks. The right-hander worked another stellar start Tuesday night against the Twins at Kauffman Stadium. He tossed seven innings in a 5-1 win that was halted 36 minutes because of a power outage.

"It doesn't matter what happens, they know that [Buehrle] is going to be out there at the end of the game," Bannister said. "It's tremendous just to have your team have confidence in you like that. They are the types of guys that every team needs because they just eat innings. I am a rookie and I am still trying to find my place here, but I just want the guys to know that every time I go out, I am going to give them innings."

Joey Gathright contributed a terrific defensive play and Mark Teahen enjoyed his second four-hit game of the season, but Bannister provided the foundation for Kansas City's second win since July 29.

Few pitchers -- including Buehrle -- have matched Bannister's continued excellence. Since May 30, Bannister is 8-3 with a 2.81 ERA and has averaged slightly over 6 2/3 innings a start. In those 12 outings, Bannister has permitted one earned run or fewer seven times.

And Bannister is a major reason the Royals continue to turn their season around. KC is 9-3 in Bannister's last 12 outings. When the rookie right-hander doesn't throw, the team is 21-24.

"When you are throwing strikes and have the same tempo that Banny does, it is a lot easier playing behind him," manager Buddy Bell said. "When you don't walk a lot of people, that makes it easier as well. When he gets in jams, he is capable of getting out of them. When a guy is pitching like Banny, you are going to have more confidence."

Constantly making adjustments every start, Bannister displayed the same guile and mentality that has made him one of the best young pitchers in baseball. Among rookie pitchers, Bannister ranks second in wins to the Red Sox's Daisuke Matsuzaka and third in ERA behind the Braves' Peter Moylan and Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie.

"He just has such an awareness of what he is doing out there," Bell said. "He just knows what he wants to do and he focuses on every pitch. Of course, his command is good and he seems to get stronger as the game goes along. He seems to have a little stumble here and there, but he always seems to recover. He was outstanding tonight."

Bannister has worked seven innings in each of his last four starts, earning a 3-0 record and 1.61 ERA. This was also the second time in the last week that Bannister defeated the Twins -- and picked up a rotation that has worked just 12 innings in the last three games. Last week, he tossed seven innings of three-run ball to halt a two-game losing skid.

This time, Bannister made some changes in his pitching arsenal and threw a little better. Over the past month, Bannister has used a slider more against left-handers. The Twins stacked the lineup with lefties last week, and Bannister threw sliders a third of the time.

Five days later, the Twins put five left-handers (including two switch-hitters) in the lineup. But Bannister didn't want Minnesota seeing the slider as frequently and changed his pattern.

"I really tried not to use [the slider]," Bannister said. "I used it a couple times against the righties, but I threw a lot of curveballs. That was effective, especially when guys were in scoring position. A couple of guys we pitched in more, because we had really pitched away at the Metrodome because of that short right field."

Bannister rarely had any trouble on a night when the heat index at first pitch was 104 degrees. He allowed a run in the second inning but coaxed a 1-6-3 double play to end the threat. That marked the first of three double plays KC turned -- and the first of several nice defensive plays.

However, none topped Gathright's catch that ended the third inning. Joe Mauer hit a fly ball down the left-field line. Gathright ran over and smashed into the wall but made the catch, receiving a standing ovation when he ran into the dugout. Bannister waited outside to congratulate him -- and pass along a message.

"You don't have to kill yourself for me," Bannister said with a smile. "I appreciate that and I know that you want to catch the ball, but I still want him to play the rest of the year. It was a tremendous catch."

And Bannister provided the rest. After Gathright's catch, Bannister allowed just four baserunners the rest of the game for his fifth quality start in his last seven starts.

"Every time out there, he gives us a solid start and a chance to win a ballgame," Teahen said.

Just like Buehrle.

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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