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Bannister dominates Tribe in return

Bannister dominates Tribe in return

CLEVELAND -- Brian Bannister's back and the Royals couldn't be happier.

Not after Bannister pitched six shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night in front of 13,509 chilled and damp fans at Progressive Field.

"It wasn't a spectacular outing. It's not like I went out and struck out six or seven or eight. But I did what I had to do and made the pitches when I needed to," Bannister said.

"We have such a talented staff this year. To come up from Triple-A, step in and keep this momentum going and keep us in the hunt -- that's all I can ask for."

Jamey Wright pitched two shutout innings and Joakim Soria added a scoreless if somewhat perilous ninth to notch his fifth save. All of which kept the Royals atop the American League Central with at least a share of first place for the 10th straight day.

Bannister -- just up from Omaha, replacing injured Doug Waechter on the roster and struggling Horacio Ramirez in the rotation -- was opposing reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and a dangerous Indians lineup.

Yet Bannister improved his career record against the Tribe to 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA in six starts and his mark at the Cleveland ballpark to 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four starts.

"I've pitched well here in the past and I have confidence here. And, for whatever reason, I seem to have a good feel for this lineup," he said.

Even while stationed at Omaha, Bannister was doing his homework on the Indians.

"I was sitting at Omaha and watching all their games against the Yankees and they were swinging the bat pretty well and hitting the ball out of the ballpark. I tried to get ahead as best I could because they've been really walking a lot and when guys get behind, that's when they're taking the big swings," Bannister said.

"I didn't strike out a lot of guys. You don't expect to throw six shutout innings when you strike out just one, but I made the ball move, I made 'em put it in play, got ground balls when I needed, got a big strikeout when I needed it."

Bannister gave up just four singles, walked two and was in real peril just once. Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner singled to start the fourth but Bannister got three outs with no problem.

Lee, who was 5-0 last year and 12-4 previously in his career against the Royals, took his third loss to match all of last season when he was 22-3. Yet, he looked like 2008 all over again to the Royals.

"He was very good," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "He moved the ball in and out. He was lights-out on that outside corner to right-handed hitters all night. ... That was what we saw last year."

Coco Crisp opened the game against Lee with a double to left field. He moved to third and across the plate on successive flyouts to right by Mike Aviles and David DeJesus.

The Royals opened the fifth with singles by Alberto Callaspo and Miguel Olivo that put runners at the corners. But Lee struck out Willie Bloomquist and then got a double play as Crisp hit a shot right at first baseman Victor Martinez.

But Bloomquist recouped in the seventh when, after singles by Mike Jacobs and Callaspo and two outs, he singled home the second run.

"I was disappointed in myself on the first one," Bloomquist said. "All I had to do was put the ball in play. Even if it's a double play, we get a run right there. But he slipped one by me so it was good to get one to make up for it later in the game.

"He's got good stuff, man. He didn't win the Cy Young for nothing. You know every time you face him, it's going to be a battle."

Bloomquist, playing right field, also gave Bannister a great catch in the sixth inning. With one on and no outs, he went to the foul line to corral Hafner's slicing drive.

"The more I'm out there, the more comfortable I get," he said. "I'm an infielder by trade. but it's not like I can't play out there."

  Wright, who hasn't allowed a run in eight innings so far, hit the first batter after replacing Bannister but got a double play and faced just six hitters.

Soria made his first appearance after an eight-day layoff.

He got one out but walked Jhonny Peralta, gave up a single to Shin-Soo Choo and got Kelly Shoppach on a line drive that had left fielder David DeJesus stumbling as he caught it on the warning track. Things got dicey when Soria crossed up catcher Miguel Olivo and a fastball got through for a passed ball that put both runners in scoring position.

But Soria threw strike three past Trevor Crowe for the save.

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

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