At some point, Texas Rangers rookie pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez is going to realize it’s not this easy.
But for now, the 23-year-old right-hander will bask in the glory of his first two career starts, including Friday night’s gem against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Gonzalez threw a three-hit shutout in his second career start as the Rangers beat the Royals 4-0 in the series opener before a packed stadium of 38,159.
Gonzalez (2-0) earned his second win in as many starts. He struck out two and walked two, a big improvement over the five walks in his debut a week ago. He’s the third Rangers pitcher to win his first two starts, joining Glen Cook (1985) and Kevin Brown (’88).
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His 14 2/3 scoreless innings to start his career is the best in Rangers history for a starter, surpassing Scott Chiamparino, who had 12 scoreless innings in his first two starts in 1990. It’s the first shutout by a Rangers pitcher this season.
The Rangers (29-26) are three games over .500 for the first time this season and for the first time since May 4, 2014.
Gonzalez was in such command throughout the evening that the only lingering question was whether he would come out for the ninth after throwing a season-high 102 pitches in eight innings.
“I just sat down and got a drink of water,” Gonzalez said. “[Pitching coach] Mike Maddux came over and asked me how I felt. I told him I felt strong, I felt good. He said go get them.”
Gonzalez retired the top of the Royals’ lineup on 14 pitches and finished with a career-high 116 (including the minors).
“In complete control. Great movement on all his pitches,” mananger Jeff Banister said. “A lot more under control of his emotions [than in his first start on May 30]. He seemed to be at peace on the mound. Just a fine job by him and the defense behind him as well.”
That included Gonzalez, who made several acrobatic stops coming off the mound, including the first out in the seventh. The Royals had two on with one out in that inning when Maddux visited him on the mound before facing Alex Gordon.
“I told him to stay through the baseball, trust [your stuff]. If you’re going to get a ground-ball double play let’s get it right away,” Maddux told him.
On the next pitch, Gordon grounded into a 4-6-3 double play started by rookie second baseman Hanser Alberto, who fought off a bad hop.
“He just seemed like as soon as he threw the pitch he was back on the rubber ready to throw again,” said Mitch Moreland, whose solo homer started a three-run sixth that was capped by a two-run single by Robinson Chirinos, who turned 31 on Friday. “When you’ve got a guy doing that, it’s fun to play behind him. These first two outings have been pretty special for him so hopefully he can continue to build on it.”
Except for an 11-pitch at-bat by Mike Moustakas and a seven-pitch at-bat by Lorenzo Cain in the fourth, Gonzalez breezed through the final eight innings. In the first, Moustakas tried to stretch a single into a double but was thrown out by left fielder Delino DeShields.
“It changed the whole inning,” Gonzalez said. “It changed the whole game. Great throw by DeShields.”
The win makes the Rangers 18-11 on the road, tying the club’s best road start after 29 games (1977, 1992, 1999).
“It’s incredible. From first pitch to the last pitch, it was a lot of fun. It has been a good time,” Gonzalez said. “Chirinos called a great game. I just threw the ball where I had to do and fortunately they hit it at guys.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760