Alec Mills throws seven scoreless innings as Cubs shut out Royals

Mills retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced in the Cubs’ 2-0 win over Kansas City. Kris Bryant hit his first homer of the season in his return to the lineup.

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Cubs pitcher Alec Mills delivers during the first inning against the Royals.

Cubs pitcher Alec Mills delivers during the first inning against the Royals.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Starter Alec Mills knows Jose Quintana is working his way back, and he’s doing his best to show why he should keep the Cubs’ fifth starter spot even when Quintana returns.

Mills got the best of his former team Monday, tossing seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory against the Royals that moved the Cubs to a National League-leading 8-2 record.

“It’s tough to hold grudges and stuff, but that was a team that got rid of me a couple of years ago,” Mills said. “I understand the business, and my job is to make it hurt whenever I face them again. It took four years for it to happen, but I’m glad it did.”

Mills kept his sinker away from the barrel and worked his secondary pitches down in the zone, forcing Kansas City to hit nine ground-ball outs. Mills went into cruise control after getting out of a second-inning jam and retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced.

“I just wasn’t as sharp [to start]; I think I had to calm myself down a little bit,” Mills said.

“As much as I tried to tell myself this game meant a little more to me than others, I think I had to settle down, settle in and know that I can throw a lot of strikes and get a lot of bad contact tonight.”

Mills scattered three hits to go along with four strikeouts and three walks. Cubs starters now have a 1.95 ERA in their first 10 starts. The rotation has four consecutive quality starts and seven total.

“You’re really seeing a guy that connects to your game plan,” manager David Ross said.

“You see a guy that changes speeds, and he’s not afraid to throw any pitch in any count. He’s got huge poise out there for such a young pitcher. We’ve known that about him for a while. You can see that every time he takes the ball. Nothing really fazes him.”

Bryant goes deep in return

Kris Bryant returned to the lineup after missing the last two games after self-reporting coronavirus symptoms, and it didn’t take long for the leadoff man to make a big impact.

Bryant doubled in his first at-bat and worked a walk before launching his first home run of the season in the seventh inning off Ian Kennedy to extend the Cubs’ lead. He finished 2-for-3.

After a slow start at the plate, Bryant knows he’s just finding his groove.

“It’s just a matter of time,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘I just kind of fall back on what I’ve done in the game so far. Just looking at what I’ve done in almost 3,000 at-bats in the big leagues. Just trusting in that and knowing that I was hitting the ball great, just nothing to show for it. Just got to roll with that and keep going.”

Quintana to throw sim game

In his third bullpen session, Quintanathrew 30 pitches, and the team says he came out of it well.

He had surgery to repair a cut of the sensory nerve in his left thumb on July 2 and has been sidelined since the beginning of summer camp.

Quintana will throw a two-inning simulated game Thursday at the Cubs’ alternate site in South Bend while the team is on the road.

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