KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jeremy Guthrie’s improvement Tuesday night could be recognized simply by his exit from the game.
After allowing just one run in 5 2/3 innings during Kansas City’s 2-1 loss to Cleveland, Guthrie gave the ball to manager Ned Yost and walked off the mound. Then the Kauffman Stadium crowd grew from a dull silence into a grateful roar, saluting Guthrie with applause of approval.
Eight days earlier, Guthrie also departed the game by submitting the ball to Yost. Except it came not in the sixth inning, but in the second. It came not after surrendering one run, but serving up 11. The Yankee Stadium crowd then was likely appreciative of Guthrie’s efforts, but not like Kauffman was Tuesday.
"Once I got three outs without 11 runs on the board," Guthrie said, "I was feeling a lot grateful for that better start."
Guthrie’s single blemish came in the fourth inning, when he failed to sneak an 11th-pitch fastball past Brandon Moss, who placed the ball in the right-field bullpen. The hit broke up Guthrie’s no-hit bid, the run ruined the shutout. But there was no spoiling his outing.
Guthrie faced just 20 batters to record 17 outs. He walked one Indian in the first and was knocked out by Carlos Santana’s double in the sixth. Guthrie sat down nine consecutive batters at one point, six at another.
The contrast with his last outing could not have been more distinct. In New York on May 25, Guthrie was historically bad. He gave up 11 runs and recorded three outs, the Yankees blasting four home runs off him.
"The only solace I really had in my last one was that it only counted as one loss," Guthrie said. "I gave up enough runs to probably lose three or four games."
Guthrie was the fourth pitcher in baseball history to give up at least 11 runs and record three or fewer outs. His ERA jumped nearly two runs. His three previous solid starts had been undone and forgotten.
Now so has his last one in New York.
"Tremendous," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Really threw the ball great."
Guthrie had been inconsistent so far this season, matching encouraging outings with pedestrian performances, subpar efforts with shutout starts. His 6.70 ERA entering Tuesday night was the worst among Kansas City starters. His four wins tied him for the most in the rotation.
Despite the unsightly numbers dictated by his last start in New York, Guthrie felt optimistic coming out of it.
"Ironically, I didn’t throw nearly as bad as I have in other outings, but it was a historical performance on the negative side," Guthrie said. "Do I look at myself and say, ‘I got to fix 12 things’? No. But I look at it as a really bad outing. You can never erase it and it’s going to linger with me the entire season."
Tuesday’s performance helped ease the sting of the 11-run drubbing and the pain of an ERA over 6.00.