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OAK@KC: Paulino fans five over six shutout innings

KANSAS CITY -- This is the kind of homework that professor Ned Yost wanted to see his Royals turn in.

Needing to bulk up their mark at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals, with right-hander Felipe Paulino showing the way, polished off the Oakland Athletics, 2-0, on Friday night with 29,527 fans viewing their handiwork in the series opener.

That improved the Royals' home record to 6-17, better, but still in stark contrast to their 16-11 record on foreign fields.

Including a strong finish to their last road trip, the Royals have won five of their last six games. The A's, though, have lost nine straight.

"It's just one of those stretches where the baseball gods don't seem to be in your favor," said the A's Josh Reddick.

But the baseball gods have been favoring Paulino. This was the fourth time in his six starts that he's shut out his opponent. He boosted his record to 3-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.70.

"Our pitching was phenomenal tonight," said Yost, aka the manager. "It started with Felipe Paulino, and the bullpen did what they've been doing for the majority of the year. [The offense] missed an opportunity in the third to tack on some runs, but the pitching made sure what we had held up."

Following Paulino's six innings of zeros, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland each pitched a scoreless inning. That cleared the way for closer Jonathan Broxton to notch his 12th save -- a perfect ninth inning that included two strikeouts.

That was in vivid contrast to Broxton's last outing against the A's. In the 12th inning on April 11 at Oakland, he blew a save by walking two batters and hitting two. The A's scored two runs to win, 5-4.

"That was way long ago. I've had some outings since then and blew one since then, too," Broxton said.

Also missing was the drama that accompanied his previous save on Wednesday, when Cleveland loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, a dilemma that Broxton escaped with a double-play pitch.

"Relievers have to have a short-term memory and I've been able to do that lately," Broxton said.

In this effort, he zipped through the heart of the A's order. He caught Reddick looking at a 3-2 pitch, sent Yoenis Cespedes down swinging hard at a 99-mph fastball, then ended it by getting Kila Ka'aihue on a groundout to short.

"This was as good as I've seen Broxton throw," Yost said.

All it took was two runs off A's starter Bartolo Colon in the first inning. Alex Gordon walked and Yuniesky Betancourt, just off the disabled list, belted a double to right-center field to bring Gordon home. After an out, Mike Moustakas dropped a single into left field and Betancourt also scored.

Betancourt was in the lineup partly because he was 11-for-30 (.367) against Colon going into this game.

"Colon is a good pitcher, but I've seen Colon a lot when I played in Seattle," Betancourt said.

It came close to being a bigger inning, but Jeff Francoeur's long drive to center field was hauled in near the wall by Coco Crisp for the second out. Eric Hosmer got an infield single, but Colon put an end to the uprising as he fielded Alcides Escobar's comebacker.

A none-out, bases-loaded chance came for the Royals in the third on singles by Billy Butler and Francoeur and a walk to Moustakas. But Hosmer tapped back to Colon for a forceout at the plate and Escobar rapped into a double play.

"Colon really got it dialed in from like the third inning on -- he really did," Yost said. "He was really painting that corner down and away with great consistency. But two runs in the first was big for us."

Paulino pulled off a crucial defensive play in the third inning. With two on, two out and Reddick at the plate, Jemile Weeks tried to steal third, but was gunned down by the alert pitcher's peg to third baseman Moustakas.

"Pauly saw him and just threw a bullet to Moose. It was a tremendous play. Big out for us," Yost said.

With a fresh bullpen, Yost decided to pull Paulino after six innings and 94 pitches. The big right-hander also has posted shutout performances against New York (six innings), Baltimore (seven innings) and the Yankees again (6 2/3 innings).

"I expect this. I always expect the best I can do," Paulino said. "I'm a guy who puts everything into the game."

Paulino and the Royals did their homework and passed this test with flying colors.

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