By Jordan Bastian and Jeffrey Flanagan
MLB.com |@FlannyMLB |
CLEVELAND -- Ian Kennedy continued his strong start to the season on Saturday, spinning seven shutout innings to help guide the Royals to a 7-0 win over the Indians at Progressive Field.
Spotted with an early lead -- courtesy of a tape-measure, three-run home run by Kendrys Morales in the first inning -- Kennedy (4-2) cruised against a Cleveland lineup that had been hot of late. The veteran righty struck out six, scattered four hits and walked two in the effort, which lowered his ERA to 2.13.
"He really pitched. I mean, he threw a lot of strikes," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He didn't throw the ball in the middle of the plate very much and he changed speeds. ... We didn't have a ton of chances. He just really pitched well."
The Royals had lost eight of 10.
"Just what the doctor ordered for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "And Kendrys took some pressure off right off the bat."
Morales' third blast of the season came against Tribe right-hander Cody Anderson, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus before the game. Anderson (0-2, 7.56 ERA) was charged with four runs on six hits in five innings in a disappointing return to the rotation. He struck out two and walked one in the loss.
Beyond Morales' early breakthrough, the Royals also received a run-scoring double from Jarrod Dyson in the fifth inning. Kansas City later padded its lead with a three-run push against reliever Jeff Manship in the eighth.
"Obviously, I don't ever want to go out there and put my team in a hole," Anderson said, "especially against a pitcher like Kennedy. That's just not how you win ballgames. I'll take that loss."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Much-needed bomb: Morales' homer was a no-doubter, a towering shot on a 0-2 pitch to deep right. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled 442 feet from home plate, making it the longest of the year by a Royals hitter. The exit velocity was 107.6 mph on a 93-mph cutter. Anderson had started Morales off with two straight changeups before throwing a cutter down and in -- often Morales' happy zone. He last homered on April 11 at Houston, and came into the game on a 5-for-42 slide (.119).
"It felt good off the bat and I felt I had a good swing off it," Morales said through interpreter Pedro Grifol.
The Royals needed an early jump after trailing so often early during their recent funk.
"It was important to gain some separation early," Morales said. "It gave us some momentum."
First baseman Eric Hosmer agreed, saying, "That was huge. And then a lot of guys had good swings tonight."
Morales couldn't remember his last homer. When told, he smiled and said, ""Oh, yeah. Right-handed."
Homer prone: Morales' blast continued an unfortunate trend for Anderson, who has had trouble keeping the ball in the yard this year. The big righty has given up seven home runs in 25 innings (2.5 per nine innings), compared to nine in 91 1/3 innings (0.9 per nine innings) in 2015. Five of the blasts have come via left-handed hitters. More >
"It's all thigh-high," said pitching coach Mickey Callaway, referring to the pitches being hit for home runs. "We're really working on getting that depth back and angling the ball down, and keeping the ball down for the most part. Really, the height of his pitches is what's gotten him so far."
Coming up empty: After Kennedy held Cleveland to an 0-for-14 cold spell between the first and fifth innings, the Tribe tried to piece together a rally in the sixth. With two out, Francisco Lindor singled between a pair of walks issued by Kennedy, loading the bases for Carlos Santana. The Tribe slugger hacked at a first-pitch fastball, grounding out to Hosmer to end the threat and the inning.
Francona did not take issue with Santana going after the first pitch.
"I'm OK with that. I mean, shoot, that's the [potential] tying run," Francona said. "That was a good pitch to hit. He just kind of rolled over a little bit. Extending innings is always good, but we're looking for him to maybe hit one in the seats there."
Snapping out of it: Of the many cold Royals hitters right now, none have been colder than Dyson, who ended an 0-for-18 drought with an RBI double in the fifth inning. With Christian Colon on second, Dyson lined a sharp double down the left-field line and the Royals went up 4-0.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When Manship allowed a run in the eighth, it marked the first time he had relinquished a run since Aug. 22, 2015, snapping a scoreless streak of 23 2/3 innings. He gave up more than one run for the first time since July 22, 2014, when he was with the Phillies. Kansas City scored three runs off Manship in the eighth-inning outburst.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With runners on second and third in the bottom of the eighth inning, Lindor drove a pitch from Kelvin Herrera into the glove of Hosmer on a line. The first baseman made a quick throw to second base, where shortstop Alcides Escobar caught the ball and stepped on the bag just ahead of Jason Kipnis' slide back to the base. Francona challenged the out call at second, but the call was confirmed after a review lasting 47 seconds.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez (3-2, 3.13 ERA) will get the ball at 12:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Progressive Field. Volquez went 7 2/3 innings against the Nationals in his last outing on Monday and gave up two runs with seven strikeouts. He is 2-4 with an 8.01 ERA all-time vs. the Tribe.
Indians: For the finale of this three-game set, righty Josh Tomlin (4-0, 3.13) will be on the mound on Sunday against the Royals at 1:10 p.m. ET. Tomlin spun six strong innings on Tuesday to pick up a win over the Tigers. Dating to his return from shoulder surgery last season, Tomlin has gone 11-2 with a 3.05 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 14 starts.