O-Royals snap losing streak with shutout

Kila Ka'aihue pounded a pair of home runs over the weekend, and the pitching staff combined for its second shutout of the season on Sunday, snapping its three-game losing streak. Inside, RC recaps Omaha's weekend series against the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Triple-A: Omaha Royals – Weekend report

Friday: Albuquerque 8, Omaha 4
Saturday: Albuquerque 5, Omaha 4
Sunday: Omaha 3, Albuquerque 0

The O-Royals dropped two of three games this weekend to Albuquerque, as the Isotopes got some payback for Omaha's season opening series win when the two clubs squared up earlier this month. After losing on Friday and Saturday, however, the Royals bounced back with a 3-0 shutout win on Sunday, and they'll have an opportunity to salvage a split in Monday afternoon's finale.

On Friday, Brandon Duckworth made his second start of the season, but he got knocked around a bit. In 3.1 innings pitched, the veteran right-hander surrendered six runs on six hits, picking up his first loss of the season. The bullpen fared better, as Roman Colon, Tim Hamulack, and Greg Atencio combined for the final 5.2 frames, surrendering just a pair of runs on four hits while combining to strike out eight batters. However, it was too little too late, as Albuquerque pitching shut down the O-Royals for most of the day.

At the plate, Kila Kaaihue launched his second home run of the season in the third inning, a solo shot to right field, and he finished the day 1-for-4 with a walk. Chris Lubanski also was 1-for-4, extending his hitting streak to nine games. Shortstop Luis Hernandez had the best day, going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs while hiking his batting average to .407.

On Saturday, southpaw Bruce Chen got the start, and he threw four scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fifth. With two outs and a 3-0 lead, Chen surrendered a solo home run, followed by a single and a walk. Carlos Rosa was summoned from the bullpen to put out the fire, but he gave up a single to load the bases, and then a grand slam to Valentino Pascucci. In all, the Isotopes put five runs on the board in the fifth inning, and that proved to be all they'd need as Rosa was saddled with his second loss of the season.

Offensively, the O-Royals banged out 11 hits, but they left ten men on base. Catcher J.R. House had an excellent day at the plate, going 4-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Kaaihue was 2-for-5, while centerfielder Tommy Murphy was 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. For the first time this season, Lubanski was held hitless, drawing an 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as the O-Royals lost, 5-4.

Sunday was a different story, however, as the O-Royals' staff blanked the Isotopes to snap the club's three-game losing streak and register its second shutout of the season. Brian Bannister started the game but went just two perfect innings, fueling speculation – both here on Royals Corner and in the O-Royals' play-by-play booth – that the 28-year-old right-handed might be heading to the major league club to make Wednesday's start against the Cleveland Indians. No roster moves have yet taken place, however, so it now seems likely that the Royals simply wanted the option to call Bannister up to the big leagues if needed. At present, Bannister is slated to make his next scheduled start for Omaha on Saturday.

Reliever Josh Newman, who was warming up during the game's first two innings, entered the game in the third and continued where Bannister left off, tossing three scoreless frames while allowing just two hits and two walks. Lenny DiNardo completed the 3-0 shutout with four innings of one-hit ball, including four strikeouts.

At the plate, Omaha had just seven hits, but it was enough. Kaaihue slammed his third home run of the season, a solo no-doubter to right field in the fifth inning, and he finished the day 1-for-3 with a walk. Lubanski was once again held hitless in four at bats, while second baseman Tug Hulett was 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored.

In Monday afternoon's finale, Luke Hochevar takes the mound for the O-Royals (6-5). Hochevar last pitched on Wednesday, when he went six strong innings against the Round Rock Express, yielding just two runs on five hits. In two starts thus far, the 25-year-old right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. In 11.0 innings pitched, Hochevar has struck out five batters while allowing 12 hits and three walks.