Chen's strong outing helps Royals end slide

Chen's strong outing helps Royals end slide

Chen's strong outing helps Royals end slide
KANSAS CITY -- Well, that was a long time in coming.

No, not a home victory for the Royals. They did that just last week. But Bruce Chen had not beaten the Arizona Diamondbacks for almost 14 years. Chen remedied that on Saturday night as he pitched the Royals to a 7-3 victory at Kauffman Stadium.

In his 15-year career, Chen had beaten the D-backs just once previously on Sept. 20, 1998, when he was a rookie with the Atlanta Braves and dazzled them with seven shutout innings. This was the ninth time he'd faced them since.

"I totally forgot that," Chen said.

But he did remember something about the game.

"I think that was the time I got my first Major League hit," he said. Now there's a typical pitcher -- remembering his hits.

That was so long ago that Matt Williams, now the D-backs' third-base coach, got one of the three hits off Chen. And the Braves' shortstop was Ozzie Guillen.

Chen, winning his third straight start, was relieved in the seventh inning when he lost his shutout bid after dodging disaster all evening. He exited to a rousing salute from the crowd of 27,469. The victory ended the Royals' three-game slide, all losses at home, and was their seventh win in the last 11 games.

"We need wins bad at home and this was an important one for us," said manager Ned Yost, quite aware of the Royals' 5-16 record at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals, in a muscle flex not seen in three weeks, hammered two home runs off D-backs starter Ian Kennedy. Billy Butler followed Alcides Escobar's single with a 422-shot to left field in the third inning. Mike Moustakas cracked a solo homer 409 feet into the right-field stands in the fourth.

"Billy Butler, he's a good hitter. Moustakas is another good hitter," said Kennedy, 21-4 last season but 3-4 this year. "They have good guys in their lineup, just haven't had that much success lately. They're young players. I wasn't sharp at all. They did what they needed to do."

This marked the Royals' first multi-homer game since April 27, when Butler and Alex Gordon teed off in a 7-6 win at Minnesota. It also gave Butler homers in back-to-back games for the first time this year.

"I'm definitely not trying to hit the ball out of the park," said Butler, who now has eight homers. "I got a good pitch to hit on back-to-back nights and made something happen."

Chen indulged in extreme escapism. Three times in the first four innings, the D-backs' first two batters got hits, but each time they failed to score.

"We were very impatient early on in the game. With guys in scoring position, we've got to do a better job than that," said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, noting his team was 0-for-8 with RISP in the first four innings.

Jason Kubel, who led off the second inning with a double and gained third on Paul Goldschmidt's single, got the closest to the plate. Chen struck out Cody Ransom before Ryan Roberts flied out to medium center field. Dyson made the catch and fired home, the throw to catcher Brayan Pena beating Kubel to complete an inning-ending DP.

"I knew he wasn't the quickest runner, so I just tried to get behind the ball and just come up making a good throw instead of just being quick with everything and not getting a good throw off," Dyson said.

After two hits opened the D-backs' fourth, Moustakas made a nice play of Ransom's hard grounder and started a double play to help Chen. That and the homer prompted Yost to do a bit of All-Star electioneering.

"I don't know how much recognition he's getting nationally for the All-Star team but, for me, he's got to be a real viable candidate the way he's playing, not only offensively but defensively, too," Yost said. "He's done a phenomenal job for us all season long."

When Goldschmidt and Roberts doubled around an out in the seventh for the D-backs' first run, Chen was relieved by Aaron Crow.

"I knew we couldn't take any chances," Yost said. "That's a good offensive club over there and he was at the hundred-pitch mark on a hot night. We just didn't want to give them any footholds."

Even so, Crow and Jose Mijares made things dicey before Greg Holland and Jonathan Broxton combined to retire the last five batters without further threats.

When did Yost have a secure feeling about this game?

"When Frenchy caught that last ball," he said.

With that out, Chen had ended his 14-year drought against the D-backs. Just as in his previous two starts, he'd ended seven-year stretches with a win against the Red Sox and the Rangers.

His next start is at Baltimore. How long has it been since he's beaten the Orioles? Heck, just last year. Chen can probably remember that one.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.