Wally Bunker struck out a career-high 10 batters, helping the Royals snap a six-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over Washington at Municipal Stadium.
Bunker allowed six hits and walked three. The 10 strikeouts were his best showing as a major-leaguer to that point, and he would not top that mark in his remaining two seasons in the bigs. His ERA dropped to 3.40 on the season as he earned his second win.
However, early on it looked like Kansas City’s losing might continue. In the third inning, the Senators picked up half of their hit total, scoring two runs with three singles and a walk. Frank Howard and Mike Epstein picked up the RBIs.
The Royals’ offense had been held to a couple of soft singles through three innings by Senators starter Jim Hannan. But with one out in the fourth, Ed Kirkpatrick launched his third home run of the season, cutting the Washington lead to 2-1.
Then the Royals took the lead in the fifth. Jackie Hernandez started things with a walk. Bunker bunted him to second, and Juan Rios also walked. A fielder’s choice moved the runners up to second and third, and Joe Foy’s single brought them both home. After reliever Jim Shellenback walked Kirkpatrick, reliever Dave Baldwin was brought in. Lou Piniella greeted him with a double for two more runs, good for a 5-2 lead.
Bunker remained in control, retiring seven straight before Del Unser led off the eighth with a home run. But Bunker retired the next three hitters, then worked around a one-out single in the ninth. Fittingly, he ended the game with a strikeout.
After the game, Bunker credited Royals coach Harry Dunlop with convincing him to throw more fastballs and fewer offspeed pitches. Dunlop had managed Bunker in the minors and reminded him he had been more successful with the harder pitches. After fighting elbow tendinitis for much of the previous few years, Bunker had been throwing more soft stuff.
“I’ve never thrown this hard in my life. Dunlop told me after I pitched against Oakland here six weeks ago that I was throwing too much junk. After that I started throwing my fastball and now I’m throwing it and getting it where I want it. I’m not walking anybody now, either. At the start of the season I was walking somebody every inning, just about.”—Bunker, quoted by the Associated Press, June 4, 1969
The win lifted the Royals to 22-27 on the season. They sat in fifth place in the AL West, six games behind Minnesota.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA196906030.shtml
Today’s birthdays: Jim Gaudet (1955), Nelson Liriano (1964), Bryan Rekar (1972), Yordano Ventura (1991)