KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Billy Buckner needed to jog his memory to recall his previous major league win.
”It’s been a while,” he said. ”The Cubs, my last outing in 2009.” Right on the money.
Josh Hamilton and Hank Conger homered to back Buckner’s first victory in 3 1/2 years, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Kansas City Royals 7-0 on Saturday for their seventh straight victory.
The resurgent Angels have outscored opponents 54-18 during their longest winning streak of the season.
”It hasn’t changed the expectations at all,” manager Mike Scioscia said. ”Obviously, confidence as a team builds as you start to move in the right direction. Right now these guys feel good because we’re playing the type of baseball we had hoped we would play the first month, but it didn’t appear.
”It’s here now. I think you see guys are comfortable playing our game, and let the other team try to stop us. That’s the mode we want to get into when we’re at our best.”
The Angels lost 22 of their first 33 games this season, but the winning streak has moved them into third place in the AL West.
”I kind of look at that as we’re not done yet,” Conger said. ”We’ve won a lot. We’ve got things rolling, but you look at the big picture. We really need to continue this momentum in order to be in the position we want to be later on down the road.”
The slumping Royals have lost 15 of 19, including seven straight at home. They have scored three runs or fewer in 12 of those defeats to drop a season-low four games below .500 at 21-25.
”We’re just not getting it done right now,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. ”We’ve got to step up and start doing better. Offensively, we’re struggling big-time. It’s frustrating. We have a very talented lineup. It doesn’t feel like we should be struggling this bad. We’ve just got to find a way to score runs.”
Conger’s opposite-field shot leading off the sixth inning was the first hit off Jeremy Guthrie, who dropped his third consecutive outing after going a Royals-record 18 starts in a row without a loss.
Hamilton homered with two outs in the seventh to make it 3-0, his 900th career hit. He has five RBIs in his past five games after driving in only four runs during his previous 32.
”He still hasn’t hit his stride,” Scioscia said.
Buckner (1-0), who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2010, limited the Royals to two hits over five innings. He walked three, struck out two and threw a pair of wild pitches. His previous victory came on Oct. 2, 2009, for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Chicago Cubs.
The Royals drafted Buckner in the second round in 2004 and he got his first big league victory with them in 2007.
”Full circle, right back here where it all started,” Buckner said. ”Getting any win at this point was going to feel good. It is neat to come back to the park where it first started.”
Mark Trumbo hit a two-run single in the Angels’ four-run eighth. Mike Trout had an RBI single and scored twice, the fifth straight game in which he has scored a pair of runs.
Los Angeles relievers Dane De La Rosa, Scott Downs, Robert Coello and Michael Kohn held Kansas City to two hits over four innings to complete the four-hitter.
Guthrie (5-3) gave up only one hit in the first six innings but faded badly after that. He was charged with seven runs, six earned, on five hits, two hit batters and a walk in 7 1-3 innings.
”I executed better today,” Guthrie said. ”It came unraveled in the eighth. We couldn’t seem to make a play and things didn’t work out for us.”
The right-hander allowed an unearned run in the fourth when Trout walked, stole second, advanced to third on catcher George Kottaras’ throwing error and scored on Albert Pujols’ groundout.
After Billy Butler led off the Royals second with a walk, Eric Hosmer bunted him over. It was the first sacrifice bunt in Hosmer’s professional career, which began in 2008.
The Royals threatened in the fifth when Mike Moustakas doubled with one out, went to third on a wild pitch and Kottaras walked. Buckner got out of that jam when Chris Getz rolled into a double play.
NOTES: After the game, the Royals placed C Salvador Perez on the bereavement list following the death of his grandmother. C Adam Moore was called up from Triple-A Omaha. … Getz was ejected in the sixth by first base umpire Marty Foster, his second career ejection. … Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland was absent while attending his daughter’s confirmation in Florida. He will return Monday. … Angels RHP Kevin Jepsen threw a scoreless inning Friday in his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Salt Lake. Jepsen went on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain on April 13 after compiling a 9.82 ERA in six relief appearances.