KANSAS CITY -- Rangers manager Ron Washington didn't even wait for the first question about Kevin Millwood. "He was outstanding," Washington said in the visiting managers' office at Kauffman Stadium. That pretty much sums it up after Millwood threw his second straight complete game and beat the Royals, 2-1, on Tuesday night. Millwood, who beat the Tigers in his last start, is the first Rangers pitcher to throw two straight complete games since Darren Oliver in 1998.
The last time a Rangers pitcher actually won two straight complete games was when Kenny Rogers won three straight in 1994. After an injury-plagued season, Millwood is finally finding the groove that he was looking for when everybody said coming out of Spring Training that he was a pitcher on a mission. "I got a lot of confidence out of my last game and that carried over to this one," Millwood said. "I wasn't as sharp as I was in the last one, but we played good defense and made some really good plays. That's what it takes when you only strike out two guys." Millwood's best pitch was his fastball. Washington said he located it well. Millwood said the location wasn't that great, but he had good movement. Either way, he used it effectively to dispatch the Royals with a mere 94 pitches in a tight duel with Royals right-hander Zack Greinke. "Those guys were aggressive and I was throwing strikes early," Millwood said. "They just started swinging the bats." Millwood won on a night when the Rangers were just 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position and that one hit didn't even lead to a run. Instead, the Rangers picked up two unearned runs on a throwing error by shortstop Mike Aviles in the first and another on catcher Miguel Olivo's wild toss in the eighth. "We had a lot of chances and didn't do it," shortstop Michael Young said. "We had a chance to give Millwood a cushion and didn't do it. Fortunately, he's one of the most mentally tough guys I've ever played with. That stuff doesn't faze him." Millwood, facing the second lowest scoring team in the American League, allowed nine hits but only one went for extra bases. That was an RBI double by Olivo in the fifth. The Royals had just four hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position and only twice did they get two runners on base in the same inning. One of those was the bottom of the ninth. "With a minimal number of pitches, it's efficiency and changing speeds," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "Obviously, he's not as powerful as he once was and he's not as powerful as Zack is, but just the ability to move balls to both sides of the plate and the tight spin on his slider, making it look like a fastball. And just locating -- we unloaded at a lot of borderline pitches and some bad pitches. The veteran pitcher will get you to do that." Millwood started the ninth by getting Mark Teahen on a groundout. Then Billy Butler singled to right and, after Ross Gload flied out, Olivo also singled to right. That brought up Esteban German, pinch-hitting for Joey Gathright, and the Rangers had newly-appointed closer Frankie Francisco ready in the bullpen. Millwood made a motion to the dugout and Washington left the dugout to go to the mound, thinking something was wrong with his pitcher. There wasn't. Millwood wanted pitching coach Andy Hawkins -- not Washington -- to go over how to pitch to German. "I couldn't remember what we had said about him in our [scouting] meeting," Millwood said. "I wanted a little refresher course." This was no time to be unsure about things. Washington said German was going to be Millwood's last batter either way. Millwood threw one slider and German hit it on the ground to Young at shortstop to end the game. Millwood reacted by pumping his right fist in the air. He's now 8-7 with a 4.95 ERA on the season and it's been a while since he's felt this way. "I feel like my mechanics are as good or better than they have been all year," Millwood said. "Like I said, I've got a little bit of confidence going and that's huge. My body feels as good as you can expect this time of year. I'm just trying to win as many games as I can and finish up strong."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.