With late help from non-roster invitees, the Royals scored twice in the seventh inning and overcame an early deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs 7-6 in front of an announced crowd of 10,213 fans at Surprise Stadium.
The Cubs put up a four-spot on right-hander Wily Peralta in the fifth inning, but the Royals slowly chipped away at the 5-1 deficit. They scored two runs in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to mount a comeback.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar led off the fifth with his first double of the spring and scored when outfielder Jon Jay’s triple rolled into the right-field corner moments later.
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In the sixth inning, Frank Schwindel put a charge into a 3-1 pitch and watched the ball travel 470 feet to center field for his second home run of the week, another lead-off bomb to match one he hit against the Rangers on Monday night. Schwindel later hit a double into the gap at right-center field to drive in two more runs and put the Royals ahead in the seventh.
Jorge Soler had an RBI single to give the Royals their first run of the game. He leads the team with nine RBIs.
Ian Kennedy breezed through the first inning against the Cubs, retiring Ian Happ, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo on 13 pitches. Even after allowing a two-out double in the second, Kennedy kept his pitch count at 30 through the second inning and gave himself wiggle room for his third start of the spring.
But as he embarked on his second trip through the order, Kennedy tried to throw his breaking ball too perfectly. He pitched deep into at-bats. After walking Happ and Bryant back-to-back over nine pitches and allowing a sacrifice fly that appeared to hold up at the warning track, he was six pitches in on the Cubs’ Chris Gimenez when Salvador Perez caught Bryant straying off third base to end the inning. Kennedy had raised his pitch count to 51 when the inning ended.
Kennedy needed just eight pitches to get all three outs in the fourth. But the rebound inning didn’t assuage his displeasure with his slider, which he said was the worst he’d thrown it all spring.
“I just all of a sudden started yanking the pitches,” Kennedy said. “Everything down and away was pulling off a little bit. But you know, luckily you get out of it with one run.”
Peralta signed a minor-league contract with the Royals in December in an effort to re-establish his career and find a job in the Royals bullpen.
After allowing four earned runs in his first Cactus League outing, he gave up one earned run over his next three innings and recorded seven strikeouts in that span.
But Peralta struggled when he took the mound in the fifth inning Wednesday. He threw 95 to 96 mph fastballs with regularity throughout his 39-pitch outing, but he couldn’t get them down in the strike zone.
After a leadoff home run, four straight batters reached base with one out. Rizzo knocked in two of them when he pulled a single into right field.
Another run scored on a squeeze play.
Whit Merrifield helped Peralta limit the damage when a single deflected off Peralta’s glove and toward second base. Merrifield trapped the ball before it squeaked into the outfield, which caused the runner at third base to hold up with two outs. Peralta retired the ninth batter of the inning on a ground ball to Escobar.
“He had a bit of timing issue,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He just never could get comfortable. He couldn’t get his foot down on time. … I don’t worry about him too much.”
Outfielder Alex Gordon has gone hitless in his last 19 at-bats. But his slow start has not set off any alarms.
Gordon was 0 for 2 on Wednesday. He reached base on a fielder’s choice and a seven-pitch walk. He also scored easily from third base when Humberto Arteaga stroked a two-out double to deep center field.
“I don’t worry about Alex,” Yost said. “I know Alex is gonna give you everything he’s got every single day. He’s prepared. He works hard.”
The Royals (9-10-1) will travel to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., on Thursday to face the Los Angeles Dodgers at 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on MLB Network.