Janson Junk shuts down Royals as Angels cruise to take series

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Los Angeles Angels starting catcher Janson Junk throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Angels pitcher Janson Junk throws during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Janson Junk didn’t get a chance to pitch when the Angels recalled him from Triple-A Salt Lake last month.

He made the most of his time on the mound Wednesday.

Junk dazzled the Angels with five-plus innings of four-hit ball, mixing up a fastball with a two-seam slider, and earned his first major league win when the Los Angeles bullpen shut out the Kansas City Royals the rest of the way in a 4-0 victory.

“After the last time I came up, I got activated but I wasn’t able to throw,” said Junk (1-0), who did make a relief appearance in May after four starts last season. “It left a bitter taste in my mouth. I made it my mission to get back here.”

He might get another shot, too, considering how he set down the Kansas City lineup. The 26-year-old allowed four hits and a walk while striking out eight before turning over a 2-0 lead to his bullpen, which did not allow a run for the second consecutive day.

“He was pounding the strike zone. He knows what’s effective for him,” interim Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “A lot of good fastballs, pitched ahead and just really pitched well.”

Shohei Ohtani reached base three times and drove in a run, pacing a scuffling Angels offense that managed to capitalize on the Royals’ shoddy fielding and get their first series win since June 27-29 against the White Sox.

“We put some pressure on them,” Nevin said, “and then we were able to add a couple of runs.”

Brad Keller (5-11) allowed three runs on six hits and three walks in six innings for Kansas City.

“It was a really good outing,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He gave us a chance to win and that’s all we can ask.”

Keller retired the first nine batters he faced and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth, when Kurt Suzuki led off with a double to left field that Andrew Benintendi didn’t field cleanly enough to hold Suzuki to one bag.

One out later, Phil Gosselin drove a pitch to right that MJ Melendez — a catcher by trade making his eighth career start in the outfield — couldn’t snare while crashing into the wall. Gosselin cruised into third with a run-scoring triple while Melendez, whose face smacked the metal fencing, needed a moment to recover before staying in the game.

Brandon Marsh proceeded to drive in Gosselin for a 2-0 lead.

Gosselin had a chance to do more damage in the sixth, when Jared Walsh and Suzuki hit one-out singles and Magneuris Sierra walked to load the bases. Instead, Gosselin grounded to shortstop for an inning-ending double play.

It didn’t matter. The Royals never came close to solving Junk or the Los Angeles bullpen all afternoon.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.