After an offseason of waiting, after franchise-defining trades and tragedy and a business-like spring training, there is now just one more dry run before the real thing.
In their penultimate exhibition game, the Royals suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Texas Rangers on Friday night at Globe Life Park. As they ditched the confines of Arizona and returned to a big-league atmosphere here in Texas, the offense could not gain any traction against Rangers starter Cole Hamels.
Royals manager Ned Yost trotted out a lineup that appeared to be a close replica of the opening day version that will take the field Monday at Target Field in Minnesota. Hamels neutralized the Kansas City attack for six innings, allowing just three hits while striking out four.
As Hamels cruised, Royals starter Ian Kennedy finally slipped following a sterling spring. In a final tune-up before the regular season, Kennedy allowed three runs and five hits in two innings. The outing was supposed to represent a taper-down effort. Kennedy was expected to go close to three innings. But after his pitch count jumped to 52 pitches after the second, Yost turned over the game to his bullpen.
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“(It was) OK,” Kennedy said. “I got a long inning in. I wanted to go three innings. But I got a lot of pitches in that second inning.”
Kennedy had allowed just one earned run all spring — to Team Venezuela in an exhibition — and zero in Cactus League play. He will take the ball Wednesday in the second game against the Minnesota Twins. All in all, he said, it was a productive preseason run.
“I joked like, ‘Well, now we can stop talking about how I haven’t given up a run all spring,’ ” Kennedy said. “I felt great all spring.”
Once Kennedy departed, the Royals’ relief corps posted a succession of zeroes. Travis Wood took the baton first, working a clean inning in the third. Chris Young worked around a hit and a walk in the fourth. Mike Minor and Matt Strahm combined to strike out three batters during the fifth and sixth — though Strahm needed to work out of a bases-loaded jam after issuing a walk and hitting two batters.
Joakim Soria lowered his spring ERA to 2.08 with a scoreless inning in the seventh. Kelvin Herrera stranded the bases loaded in the eighth.
“They got their work in,” Yost said. “That was their last tune-up before opening day. So they’re ready to go.”
The Royals will conclude their exhibition season at 1:05 p.m. Saturday against the Texas Rangers here at Globe Life Park. Starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jason Vargas are both expected to log innings in their final appearances before the regular season. Yost said he expected to play his regular lineup for four to five innings.