Royals

Starter Ian Kennedy rolls again in Royals’ 3-1 win over the Tigers

Monday night in Detroit, starting pitcher Ian Kennedy continued a masterful run of success, allowing just one run in six-and-two-thirds innings as the Royals edged the Tigers 3-1. The victory propelled Kansas City to another road victory and capped the best four-start stretch of Kennedy’s season.
Monday night in Detroit, starting pitcher Ian Kennedy continued a masterful run of success, allowing just one run in six-and-two-thirds innings as the Royals edged the Tigers 3-1. The victory propelled Kansas City to another road victory and capped the best four-start stretch of Kennedy’s season. The Associated Press

On a recent day inside the Royals’ clubhouse, Ian Kennedy found himself immersed in a conversation about pitching with teammate Chris Young. It was the kind of talk that happens maybe a couple hundred times in a baseball season. Two guys shooting the breeze and pondering the craft, two friends taking stock of their seasons.

Only this time, as the talk continued and the subject went deeper, Kennedy suggested a relevant thought exercise.

“Just imagine,” he said, “how much better our ERAs would be if we just cut our homers in half.”

For both Kennedy and Young, it is a tempting question. As the Royals opened a three-game series at Comerica Park on Monday, Kennedy had surrendered an American League-leading 27 homers, while Young was right behind at 26. Together, they had allowed more than 50 blasts in baseball parks across America, waging a modern battle akin to Mantle and Maris — only this one not as fun.

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As the homer totals ballooned, Kennedy tried to shrug off it off. It was baseball, he said. Some of the problem was on him, of course. But some of it was just random luck. And as he sat in a clubhouse in Minnesota this past weekend, he wondered once more: What would his numbers look like if he just had allowed, say, 14 or 15 homers rather than 27?

The answer, of course, is that they would look pretty good. Want tangible proof? Consider Kennedy’s performance on Monday in a 3-1 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park. Consider the totality of Kennedy’s last four starts.

On a cool and overcast summer night in Detroit, Kennedy allowed just one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings, continuing a masterful run of success. On the fourth night of a six-game road trip, Kansas City (58-60) snatched another valuable road victory.

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Kennedy earned his first win since June 26 against Houston, ending a run of eight straight starts without a victory. He also notched his fourth straight quality start, lowering his ERA to 3.78, his best since early June.

“Pretty good outings,” Kennedy said. “I just try to go one start at a time and focus on the next start. I just focus on that each start and not get ahead of yourself. Once you start feeling good about yourself, you get humbled.”

For now, it has been a while since that has occurred. In his last 26 innings, Kennedy has allowed just three earned runs while striking out 22 hitters. In the same span, he has surrendered just two solo homers, limited the long ball to fewer than one per nine innings.

Monday was not perfect in the department, of course. Kennedy allowed his only run when Detroit’s J.D. Martinez smashed a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh. But if there is something Kennedy has learned over his long career, it is this. Solo homers won’t kill you. But a large number of base runners can. So in that regard, this was a quintessential Kennedy start. Yes, there was a homer. Those are bound to happen. And when it was over, there was a strong and steady performance.

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“I made quality pitches except for that one pitch to Martinez,” Kennedy said.

As Kennedy cruised, the Royals improved to 3-1 on the road trip, pulling within five games of the second-place Tigers in the American League Central standings. Kansas City won despite scoring just one earned run against Tigers starter Daniel Norris, who lasted 5 1/3 innings. It was enough.

Eric Hosmer opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the first. Rookie Raul Mondesi scored another run on an safety squeeze in the sixth — his fourth bunt single since being called up in July. Lorenzo Cain offered breathing room with an RBI single in the ninth, an important insurance run as Yost tracked a storm headed for the area.

The storm would hit in the minutes after the game. Kennedy was already in the clubhouse, drenched following a postgame celebration.

Kennedy had exited after surrendering a single to Casey McGehee with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Yost summoned right-hander Peter Moylan to face the right-handed hitting James McCann, who promptly singled into the hole at shortstop.

With runners at first and second, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus opted for pinch-hitter Mike Aviles, the former Royals infielder. Moylan escaped the jam by coaxing a pop fly on the infield.

The Royals’ bullpen finished the job over the final two innings. Yost let out a sigh of relief. Kennedy savored a hard-fought victory.

“When he struggles at times, it’s because he struggles to get the feel of his curveball,” Yost said. “That kind of narrows him to two pitches. But when he’s got his curveball like he has now, he’s got three pitches working for him, throwing them all for strikes. He’s just in a good groove.”

Royals 3, Tigers 1

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Orlando cf

4

1

0

0

1

0

.330

Cuthbert 3b

4

0

2

0

1

0

.298

Cain rf

3

0

2

1

2

0

.283

Hosmer 1b

4

0

0

1

0

1

.271

Morales dh

4

0

0

0

0

0

.243

Perez c

4

0

0

0

0

1

.259

Gordon lf

3

1

2

0

1

0

.216

Escobar ss

3

1

2

0

1

0

.260

Mondesi 2b

3

0

1

1

0

0

.203

Totals

32

3

9

3

6

2

Detroit

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Kinsler 2b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.288

Collins cf

4

0

1

0

0

2

.239

Romine cf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.217

Cabrera 1b

1

0

0

0

1

0

.310

Saltlmcchia 1b

2

0

0

0

0

1

.197

V.Martinez dh

4

0

0

0

0

1

.301

J.Martinez rf

4

1

2

1

0

1

.305

Upton lf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.228

McGehee 3b

4

0

2

0

0

0

.314

McCann c

3

0

1

0

0

1

.213

Machado ss

2

0

0

0

0

1

.200

Aviles ph-ss

1

0

0

0

0

0

.210

Totals

33

1

6

1

1

8

Kansas City

100

001

001

3

9

1

Detroit

000

000

100

1

6

1

E: Mondesi (4), Norris (1). LOB: Kansas City 10, Detroit 6. 2B: Cuthbert (19), Gordon (11). HR: J.Martinez (16), off Kennedy. RBIs: Cain (47), Hosmer (66), Mondesi (6), J.Martinez (45). SF: Hosmer. S: Mondesi. DP: Kansas City 2, Detroit 2.

Royals

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Kennedy W, 7-9

6.2

5

1

1

1

5

3.78

Moylan H, 4

0.1

1

0

0

0

0

3.72

Soria H, 14

1

0

0

0

0

1

4.06

Herrera S, 5-7

1

0

0

0

0

2

2.05

Detroit

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Norris L, 1-1

5.1

6

2

1

4

1

3.47

Wilson

1.2

1

0

0

1

0

2.70

Rondon

1

0

0

0

0

1

4.08

Hardy

1

2

1

1

1

0

4.96

Inherited runners-scored: Moylan 1-0, Wilson 2-1. WP: Norris, Herrera. Umpires: Home, Dan Iassogna; First, Dale Scott; Second, Lance Barrett; Third, Bob Davidson. Time: 2:58. Att: 29,803.

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