Royals

In Royals’ marathon victory over White Sox, Ian Kennedy starts to show his worth

Salvador Perez (center) hugged Lorenzo Cain as the Royals celebrated Cain’s game-winning single scored Christian Colon in the 14th inning to lift Kansas City to a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Salvador Perez (center) hugged Lorenzo Cain as the Royals celebrated Cain’s game-winning single scored Christian Colon in the 14th inning to lift Kansas City to a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Ned Yost sat inside his office on Wednesday afternoon and scanned a list of numbers, stopping near the bottom. It was more than three hours before first pitch, and it was close to eight hours before Lorenzo Cain would line a walk-off single into center field in the bottom of the 14th, completing a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. And for a moment, the Royals’ manager had a thought.

Printed on a piece of blue paper was the season game log of Ian Kennedy, the veteran right-hander who in a matter of hours was slated to make his 23rd start of the season. The game log contained everything Kennedy from April 9 onward — the wins, the losses, the good and the bad. But as Yost leaned forward inside his office, he sought to inspect the results from the last six starts, beginning July 6 in Toronto.

“No decision,” Yost began. “No decision. Loss. Loss. No decision. No decision.”

Read Next

Yost stopped. It had been 45 days since Kennedy had earned a win, and the stretch had coincided with the Royals’ July collapse. Yost, though, chose to parse out the streak in another way. In the four no-decisions, he noted, Kennedy had yielded just four earned runs in 24  1/4 innings.

“He’s had some lulls, but for the most part, he’s gone deep into games,” Yost said. “He’s kept us in games.”

If you wish to dissect Kennedy’s first season in Kansas City — the first months of a five-year, $70 million contract — there is indeed something for everybody. There are splendid stretches and disappointing struggles and solid strikeout numbers and an avalanche of home runs allowed. And then there are performances such as the one Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox.

In a marathon game that lasted 14 innings, Kennedy allowed just one earned run — a solo homer — in 6  1/3 innings pitched. The night followed a familiar trend. In his last three starts, he has yielded just two earned runs in 19  1/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.91. In all three starts, he had not procured a win.

This time, however, the Royals did, engineering two comebacks on a wild night. Christian Colon led off the bottom of the 14th with a sharp single to left field. Cain stepped to the plate with two outs, 0 for 6 on the night and seeking a way to end the Royals’ longest game since July 24, 2014.

“I’ve been ready to go home for a while now,” Cain said, standing at his locker after the game. “It was definitely a rough night up to that point, so to come through for the boys is definitely a very good feeling.”

The sequence punctuated a game that lasted four hours, 34 minutes. The night featured 14 pitchers — eight from the Royals — two late-inning comebacks, myriad defensive gems and perhaps the strangest sight of the year: Two intentional walks for Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar.

“It took us 14, but we finally did it,” Yost said.

The Royals sent the game into extra innings after tying the score at 1 in the bottom of the eighth. The White Sox pulled ahead again against reliever Chien-Ming Wang in the top of the 11th, the go-ahead run scoring on a bloop single over the head of a drawn-in Eric Hosmer.

But Kansas City would strike back again in the 11th, tying the game on a line-drive double by Salvador Perez.

Royals pitcher Dillon Gee got the win for the Royals after pitching perfect 13th and 14th innings. Gee said he'll be ready to go again on Saturday if the Royals need him to start.

Two innings later, right-hander Dillon Gee emerged from the bullpen, taking over in the top of the 13th. Gee was slated to start Saturday in Minnesota against the Twins, but with nobody left in the bullpen, Yost turned to the club’s fifth starter. Gee responded with two scoreless innings, earning the win.

“There was no plan,” Yost said. “That was it. Gee was going to go until we won or lost. We didn’t have any other options.”

Gee threw 32 pitches in two innings, which could put his start on Saturday in jeopardy, Yost said. So, yes, the Royals could need another starter by the weekend.

Which brings us back to Kennedy’s 2016 season and an intriguing Rorschach test amid a lost summer. After four-plus months, what exactly do you see in Kennedy?

If you wish to see a marquee free-agent signing who has been a piece of an underwhelming starting rotation, you can do that. If you wish to see him for what he’s been — an above-average starting pitcher in the American League — that is possible as well.

To some degree, the distinction matters little. The Royals improved to 54-59 on Wednesday night, pulling into a third-place tie with Chicago in the AL Central. One season after losing their 60th game on Sept. 16, the defending World Series champions needed 14 innings to avoid losing their 60th game on Aug. 10.

But as the franchise positions itself for another run in 2017, the performance and progress of Kennedy could become a crucial pivot point. Eight months ago, the Royals offered Kennedy the second-largest contract in team history, hoping to secure an innings-eater that could shore up a hole in the starting rotation.

For most of 2016, Kennedy has been a dependable arm with occasional blowups. In the last two weeks, he has appeared to find a better comfort level.

“The last couple starts have been building off each other, and keeping that same thing in between starts — the same routine,” Kennedy said.

As Wednesday began, Kennedy had logged a 6-9 record with a 4.03 ERA, a mark that stood 10 percent better than average in the American League. In 22 outings, he had recorded nine “quality starts” and allowed two runs or fewer in 14 games. The numbers aligned closely with the Royals’ internal expectations.

“Those no-decisions … he’s kept us right there in the game,” Yost said. “We very easily could have gotten wins.”

On this day, as Kennedy tossed zeros on the scoreboard, the Royals’ defense displayed sheer craftsmanship behind him. Hosmer sprinted deep into foul territory in the top of the third, making a sliding catch on a foul pop from Tyler Saladino. Escobar deked the White Sox into a double play with a heads-up play at second. Paulo Orlando erased a possible run in the top of the seventh, throwing out Chicago’s Omar Narvaez from center field on a close play at home plate.

Kennedy had exited the game just moments earlier after allowing two base runners in the seventh. Left-hander Brian Flynn came on and allowed a single up the middle to J.B. Shuck. Orlando charged hard and unleashed a throw that skipped into the glove of Perez, who applied a sweeping tag at the corner of the plate. The play required an umpire review that stretched for minutes, but the call stood and reliever Peter Moylan ended the inning.

The hold set up a game-tying sequence in the bottom of the eighth. Orlando reached base on a one-out double. Cheslor Cuthbert followed with a well-placed double to deep right-center field. Orlando scored easily from second base.

Six innings later, the marathon was alive, and it felt as if baseball could go on all night. Finally, Cain came through.

“The defensive tonight was spectacular,” Yost said. “It was a great defensive night. The pitching was great. We just struggled to score runs. At the end of the day, we scored one more than they did.”

oyals 3, White Sox 2

Chicago

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Anderson ss

6

0

1

1

1

5

.262

Cabrera lf

6

0

1

0

1

1

.299

Eaton rf

6

0

2

0

0

1

.271

Abreu 1b

6

0

3

0

0

0

.280

Morneau dh

6

0

1

0

0

0

.290

Frazier 3b

6

1

1

0

0

0

.212

Narvaez c

3

0

1

0

1

0

.412

Sanchez pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

.119

Navarro c

1

0

0

0

0

0

.208

Saladino 2b

6

0

1

0

0

1

.256

Shuck cf

5

1

2

1

1

0

.224

Totals

51

2

13

2

4

8

 

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Orlando cf

6

1

1

0

0

1

.328

Cuthbert 3b

7

0

2

1

0

0

.300

Cain rf

7

0

1

1

0

3

.278

Hosmer 1b

5

1

0

0

1

0

.277

Morales dh

4

0

2

0

0

0

.244

Dyson pr-dh

1

0

1

0

0

0

.255

Perez c

5

0

2

1

0

2

.264

Burns pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Butera c

1

0

0

0

0

1

.290

Gordon lf

5

0

2

0

1

2

.203

Escobar ss

3

0

0

0

2

1

.251

Mondesi 2b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.217

Colon ph-2b

2

1

1

0

0

0

.241

Totals

50

3

12

3

4

12

 

Chicago

001

000

000

010

00

2

13

1

Kansas City

000

000

010

010

01

3

12

0

Two outs when winning run scored. E—Frazier (8). LOB—Chicago 12, Kansas City 13. 2B—Orlando (16), Cuthbert (18), Perez (22), Gordon (10). 3B—Dyson (4). HR—Shuck (4), off Kennedy. RBIs—Anderson (13), Shuck (14), Cuthbert (35), Cain (43), Perez (48). CS—Dyson (6). S—Navarro, Orlando, Escobar, Dyson. DP—Kansas City 2.

Chicago

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Quintana

7.1

4

1

1

1

5

2.85

Jones

1.2

3

0

0

1

2

2.22

Turner

1

0

0

0

0

1

10.03

Robertson

1

1

1

1

2

1

4.18

Jennings

2

2

0

0

0

3

1.86

Albers L, 2-5

0.2

2

1

1

0

0

5.91

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Kennedy

6.1

6

1

1

2

2

3.90

Flynn

0.1

1

0

0

0

0

3.06

Moylan

0.1

0

0

0

0

1

3.77

Young

1

1

0

0

1

0

6.32

Herrera

1

1

0

0

0

0

2.09

Soria

1

2

0

0

0

1

4.22

Wang

2

2

1

1

1

1

4.87

Gee W, 4-5

2

0

0

0

0

3

4.54

Inherited runners-scored—Jones 1-1, Flynn 2-0, Moylan 2-0. IBB—off Jones (Escobar), off Robertson (Escobar). T—4:34. A—25,188 (37,903).

 

Related stories from Kansas City Star

  Comments