The ricochet was violent.
Shortly after Royals starter Ian Kennedy released the four-seam heater in the third inning of his team’s 5-2 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium, the ball came back toward him at a speed quicker than he sent it.
Kennedy had no time to react. The Ryan Braun shot hit the front of Kennedy’s right foot, with the collision of 106 mile-per-hour liner and Kennedy’s blue New Balance shoe sending the ball skyward and nearly 50 feet away from him.
After hanging in the air for more than a second, the ball dropped just in front of catcher Salvador Perez, who had no play as Jonathan Villar scored Milwaukee’s first run.
The game, in essence, was decided in the few seconds after that.
Royals trainer Nick Kenney and manager Ned Yost came to the mound to check on Kennedy, who tiptoed a couple of times and started to apply pressure, testing the injury near the pinky toe to see if he could continue.
After a few warmup tosses, Kennedy convinced Yost he could stay in the game with two on and two out.
Kennedy wasn’t able to execute right after that. Travis Shaw turned around a 2-2 elevated fastball, launching a three-run shot off a billboard in the right-field fountains to push the Brewers’ lead to 4-0.
"It ended up costing us a chance to win," Kennedy said. "That’s the most frustrating part. Yeah my foot hurts, but the part where you yank a pitch — one mistake down the middle — three runs, just like that."
Kennedy’s night was over shortly after. Though he completed the frame by coaxing an Eric Thames fly-out, Kennedy didn’t return for the fourth, removing his sock between innings to see his foot had already turned red.
"As soon as I took a step to go up the stairs (from the dugout), I felt it. I was like, ‘Warm somebody up,' " Kennedy said. "It’s off these tiny little bones that mean a lot."
His short stint snapped a long personal streak.
For each of his first 273 career starts before Tuesday, Kennedy had struck out at least one batter. Only Boston’s David Price (274 appearances with a strikeout to start his career) has a current stretch that was longer than Kennedy’s entering the game.
"We don't want to put him in a situation where he's overcompensating for one thing," Yost said of removing Kennedy. "It could lead to something more serious, especially in his elbow or his shoulder, so we took him out."
If there was any positive for the Royals, it was this: X-rays of Kennedy’s right bruised foot showed no fracture, meaning he’s day-to-day and could potentially be available for his next start. Kennedy said he'd be wearing a boot as a precautionary measure.
"We're taking it as just a wait and see how it feels," Kennedy said, "because nothing's broken. That's the good thing."
The Royals, in falling to 5-16 on Tuesday, gave 16,555 fans (and 441 dogs during a Bark at the Park night) some reason to believe the immediate future could be brighter.
Perez, in his return to the lineup, hooked a home run around the left-field foul pole in the fourth, while Alex Gordon laced a solid double to left-center in the fifth, later scoring the Royals’ second run on the day he was activated from the disabled list following a hip injury.
That started before the game’s first pitch, when Lorenzo Cain received a standing ovation from Royals fans in his first return to KC after signing a free-agent contract with the Brewers this offseason.
Cain reminded fans with a glimpse of his diverse skill set after that. In the fourth, he glided to right-center to rob Jorge Soler of an extra-base hit.
"I just let them know 'not today, not today,' " Cain said with a smile. "I had to show them I still got it."
His now-famous, arched-back hitting pose followed in the seventh when he connected with a Burch Smith fastball, sending it over the right-field wall for a solo homer. Royals fans, initially unsure how to respond, slowly began to cheer Cain as he took the final turns on his home-run trot.
"I talked to the guys earlier. I told them I'll try not to lean back on somebody tonight, but I didn't keep my promise," Cain said. "It was nice to definitely hit a homer against my former team. I was definitely fired up."
KC failed to muster any additional offense after the fifth inning, scoring two runs or fewer for the ninth time in 21 games.