Tejeda's emergence continues
Righty limits White Sox to one run over six innings
CHICAGO -- In a season that has turned as gray as the Royals' road uniforms, Robinson Tejeda slowly is emerging as a shiny ray of promise.
Tejeda worked six innings on Sunday afternoon, allowing one run on three hits with five strikeouts to pick up a victory in Kansas City's 2-1 triumph over Chicago in the rubber match of a three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.
With the win, Tejeda improved to 3-0 in four starts. Over that span, he has surrendered just two runs in 22 1/3 innings, good for a miniscule 0.81 ERA.
Not bad for a guy who hadn't started a game all season before Sept. 4.
"He's always had missed-bat type stuff," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "He's always had the ability to strike guys out, and he's having a lot of success. Sometimes he's tough to pick up because they're sitting offspeed and then the fastball is by them. If he continues to throw strikes, he has the chance to do some great things, which he's done."
Tejeda, in his fifth big league season, had made 29 relief appearances for Kansas City this year when he moved to the starting rotation as a result of Gil Meche's sore shoulder. Now, it appears Tejeda may not leave that rotation anytime soon.
White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski noticed that Tejeda looks like an entirely different pitcher.
"The difference is when he was coming out of the bullpen, he was throwing 97 or 98 mph," Pierzynski said. "Now, he's 91 or 92 but spots it a whole lot better. He just mixes his pitches up really well.
"It's pretty amazing to see his transformation to go from the bullpen to being a starter and having the success he's had. He's done it four or five times, so it's not a fluke."
Tejeda lowered his season ERA to 2.94, throwing 66 of his 104 pitches for strikes as the Royals won for the 10th time in their past 13 games and closed their road trip vs. American League Central foes at 6-3.
"The way we are playing the game, the way that we hit the ball, the way that we play defense now, it's fun to me," Tejeda said. "If I could pitch every day, I probably would."
Tejeda was backed by two early runs from his offense, which held up for the duration of the ballgame.
In the top of the first, Willie Bloomquist led off with an aggressive double to center, turning on the jets to beat the throw from White Sox center fielder Alex Rios at second base. Bloomquist then stole third base and scored on Freddy Garcia's wild pitch for a quick 1-0 Royals lead.
In the third, the Royals (61-88) plated another run thanks to the small-ball approach. Josh Anderson beat out an infield single and stole second. Mitch Maier followed with a single to center, scoring Anderson for a 2-0 edge.
Tejeda's only blemish came in the bottom of the fourth inning, with the White Sox scoring in much the same small-ball fashion as the Royals. Leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik reached base on a single, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Pierzynski's single to right field, bringing the White Sox within 2-1. Both Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye walked, loading the bases with two outs for Carlos Quentin.
But Tejeda escaped further damage by inducing a flyout to center of Quentin, and he retired the next six White Sox batters in order to make it through the sixth.
In the bottom of the third frame, Quentin was robbed of an almost certain home run when Anderson made an outstanding leaping catch at the wall in center field for the first out.
"I thought I was just going to catch it," Anderson said. "I really did. Once I felt the track on my feet and the way it started carrying, I knew I was probably going to have to leap and make a catch, make contact with the wall and that's what happened. Just one of those good balls to jump up and catch."
Tejeda certainly appreciated the defensive support.
"I didn't think he was going to catch the ball, but he made a pretty good jump and timed it, and he finally got the out," Tejeda said. "I said, 'OK, I'll take you for dinner.'"
No other White Sox batter put as good of a swing on any Tejeda pitch from then on, as Tejeda won his third straight decision to improve to 4-1 this season.
Of course, that didn't mean the game wasn't without some drama. Royals closer Joakim Soria entered in relief of Roman Colon with one out and two runners on base in the eighth inning to try to pick up a five-out save.
He struck out Konerko swinging but walked Alexei Ramirez to load the bases for Dye.
Again, however, the Royals emerged from a bases-loaded jam with the lead, when Soria induced a flyout to right field from Dye to end the frame.
In the ninth, Royals catcher John Buck threw out pinch-runner Dewayne Wise attempting to steal second base for the final out of the game, preserving the win and helping Soria pick up his 26th save.
While Kansas City recorded just five hits on Sunday and did not tally one over the final four innings, the pitching staff held up one day after all four Royals pitchers allowed at least one run in a 13-3 loss to Chicago.
Tejeda had been dealing with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand in his last start in Detroit, but he experienced no troubles with the ailment on Sunday.
"In Detroit it was bothering me a little bit with my breaking pitch," Tejeda said, "but this time it was awesome."
So, too, was Tejeda.
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.