Bannister guides Royals over White Sox

Bannister guides Royals over White Sox

CHICAGO -- Brian Bannister got a late start on the season, but he's the first Royals pitcher to reach 10 victories in 2007.

Bannister worked 6 2/3 innings in a 7-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox as 31,739 fans lolled about Wednesday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. He also became the first Royals rookie to win 10 since Rusty Meacham in 1992.

"Hopefully, I can start a trend," Bannister said. "We've got some good things going and we've got some exciting young arms coming up in the future."

Coming off his first complete-game victory, Bannister was pulled with two outs in the seventh inning after he'd made 101 pitches. There were some fretful moments before the win was nailed down.

"As you can see, you can never really have enough," he said.

Closer Joakim Soria, in the ninth, gave up a three-run homer to Josh Fields that took a big bite out of the Royals' 7-3 lead. Fields connected after two outs with Juan Uribe, who doubled, and Jerry Owens, who walked, on base. Finally, after Jim Thome singled, Soria struck out Paul Konerko to end the game.

"Sometimes it happens," Soria said, "especially with the home run."

Still it was a victory, one that lifted the Royals back into a fourth-place tie with the White Sox in the American League Central.

White Sox starter Jose Contreras once won a franchise-record 17 straight decisions. But he came out of this game with another kind of streak -- having lost nine straight starts.

The first inning has been a Contreras bugaboo (22 runs in 22 starts) and Wednesday was no exception. The Royals summoned up two runs, but it began with a scary moment. Mark Grudzielanek was struck on the helmet by a pitch. However, it was a glancing blow and he was OK.

David DeJesus singled, Billy Butler lofted a sacrifice fly and Ross Gload stroked an RBI single. The Royals added two more runs in the second with this two-out sequence: Jason LaRue's walk, Joey Gathright's single, Grudzielanek's double and DeJesus' single.

But that was it against Contreras, who shut down the Royals for the next four innings before his afternoon ended.

Mike Myers, the sidearming lefty signed after being released by the Yankees, replaced Contreras. DeJesus dropped a safe bunt, his third single, and Butler drove a 2-2 pitch into the right-field seats. It was Butler's fifth home run but his first since July 7 -- 80 at-bats ago.

"What was that? Two months ago?" Butler asked.

Well, not quite. And this home run proved, in the end, to be essential.

"I guess we needed that one today. You never know when you have enough runs," Butler said.

Bannister's first inning was no walk along Lake Michigan either. He struck out the first two batters before Thome doubled, Konerko walked, and Darin Erstad and Jermaine Dye smacked RBI singles.

"It was kind of similar to my first inning at Oakland," Bannister said. "The big thing is to be able to make adjustments. I came in after the first and watched tapes and made adjustments. I was flying open with my shoulder and landing on my heel."

Then Bannister settled into a nice groove, retiring 18 of the last 21 batters he faced with no more scoring. Jimmy Gobble surrendered a solo homer to Konerko in the eighth.

"After the first inning, he was locked in, threw strikes, had a good tempo," manager Buddy Bell said. "Typical Banny."

Grooving along has been Bannister's story most of the season. Called up for the first time on April 24, he made three starts and then was sent back to Triple-A Omaha. Four days later, on May 13, he was back because Luke Hudson had to go on the disabled list.

After three more starts, Bannister was 0-3 but then got on a roll. Since then, he's a glossy 10-4.

Meacham, when he finished 10-4 in 1992, was strictly a relief pitcher. The last rookie starter to win 10 for the Royals was Kevin Appier, who was 12-8 in 1990.

Either way, it's been quite a while.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.