Nate Karns won a spring training competition to earn the fifth slot in the Kansas City rotation. In his last three starts, he has been dominant.
Karns struck out a career-high 12 in five innings, Eric Hosmer reached base four times and the Royals beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 on Saturday night.
Karns is the first in franchise history to strike out 12 in five innings. The last pitcher to accomplish that was Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs on June 5, 2016.
"That's pretty cool, but as a starter I'd like to go deeper in games," Karns said. "The strikeouts are great, but I really want to go deep as I can and help the ballclub win, but having 12 in five is something special, but it's really too short of a game."
In his past three starts, Karns has allowed four runs and 11 hits in 17 1/3 innings while striking out 29.
Baltimore's Chris Davis homered off Seth Maness (1-0) to tie it 3-3 in the sixth, but Brandon Moss went deep off Alec Asher (1-2) to put Kansas City back ahead later that inning. Moss has homered in consecutive games.
"The story the last two nights, for me, is we just haven't scored any runs," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I'll just give their pitcher credit, but we're capable of better, too."
Hosmer had two hits and walked twice. The Royals scored three runs in 4 1/3 innings off Chris Tillman.
"As the game wore on, I felt like I tried to do too much," Tillman said. "I kind of got out of my delivery and started falling behind guys and staying behind them, as opposed to making my pitch early on and getting in a count that favors pitchers."
Karns has 48 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings this season, but has also allowed eight home runs, including a pair to Francisco Pena on Saturday. Pena homered in the third and fifth innings, the second and third homers of his career.
Sacrifice flies by Lorenzo Cain and Jorge Bonifacio in the fifth gave the Royals a 3-2 lead.
Maness was making his Royals' debut and his first big league appearance since Aug. 13 because of elbow surgery.
Mike Minor pitched two perfect innings for Kansas City and has allowed one run in 14 2/3 innings in his past eight appearances. Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect ninth for his seventh save in eight chances.
Hosmer doubled to start the second and scored on Salvador Perez's single. Hosmer is hitting .422 in his past 17 games to raise his average to .299.
NINE FOR NINE
2B Whit Merrifield became the ninth Royal to bat ninth this season. Raul Mondesi started 12 games batting ninth before being optioned April 21 to Triple-A Omaha. Backup C Drew Butera has batted last seven times. None of the others have more than four starts hitting ninth.
Royals: LF Alex Gordon, who left in the seventh inning Friday with right groin tightness, was not in the lineup. Manager Ned Yost said if Gordon is not close to 100 percent Sunday, he would sit him again, and with the day off Monday, that would give him three days to recuperate.
Royals: RHP Chris Young will make his second start of the year. He is 1-8 in his past 14 starts.