Kennedy drives KC after navigating hairy 1st

Right-hander throws 7 scoreless frames in win over Indians

Kennedy drives KC after navigating hairy 1st

CLEVELAND -- The Royals had just grabbed a three-run lead in the first inning -- a rare lead for the Royals lately -- and suddenly right-hander Ian Kennedy was staring at the potential tying run at the plate with one out in the bottom of the inning.

But before Royals fans could sigh, "Here we go again," Kennedy struck out Cleveland's Mike Napoli and got Carlos Santana to fly out, both with runners at the corners, en route to a 7-0 win on Saturday at Progressive Field.

"It was pretty important there to preserve the lead," Kennedy said. "The boys had just gotten the lead and no one wanted to give it right back there. That was pretty big."

From there, Kennedy cruised. At one point he retired 14 straight, and he finished with seven shutout innings. Kennedy gave up four hits, walked two and struck out six.

"Just what the doctor ordered," said beaming manager Ned Yost.

Added Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, "He's been just phenomenal for us. And we really needed this one today."

The Royals had lost eight of 10, but Kennedy became the stopper, again. Last Sunday, Kennedy threw five shutout innings before wobbling a bit in the sixth, but nonetheless helped stop a five-game skid with a win over Seattle.

Kennedy was even better on Saturday. His fastball command was spot on.

"Everything works off the fastball," Kennedy said. "Fastball down when I needed it, and fastball up when I needed it ... if you throw the fastball for strikes, you can expand the zone."

Yost wasn't the least bit worried once Kennedy escaped the first inning.

"What we've seen from him is that if he has any rough spots it is always in the first," Yost said. "I knew if he could get out of there, we'd be in good shape."

With the Royals reeling of late, Kennedy gave their struggling offense a boost by keeping the Indians off the board.

"It gave everyone on offense a chance to relax," Hosmer said. "We put up some pretty good swings."

Kennedy downplayed the notion that he has become a stopper.

"It's hard to throw shutouts," he said. "You try to put up some zeros, but it's not easy. You don't really go out with that intent. You go out and try to get guys out one at a time."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.