Kennedy ends dry spell in Royals’ 2-1 win over Diamondbacks
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Whit Merrifield will be swinging for the fences in the final two games.
Merrifield hit a go-ahead home run and Ian Kennedy ended a franchise-record home winless streak in the Kansas City Royals’ 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Merrifield homered in the third inning for the decisive run. It was his 19th home run and he already has 33 stolen bases. He wants to join the 20-30 club.
“I‘m not going to lie, I’d like to hit one more,” Merrifield said. “I’ve probably got eight or nine at-bats to do it. I’ll give it a shot.”
Kennedy (5-13), who was 0-9 with a 6.13 ERA in 18 home starts since an Aug. 20, 2016, victory over Minnesota, threw 86 pitches in five innings.
“If you had told me at the beginning of the year, Kennedy was going to win his last start and it would his first win of the year at home, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “That’s a little deceiving, too, because he had some great starts in April and May and we just couldn’t score any runs for him. But he was fantastic.”
It was Kennedy’s 30th start, the eighth straight season he has started at least 30 games.
“That’s my goal every year is 30 starts,” Kennedy said.
Five Royals relievers limited the Diamondbacks to two hits and no runs in the final four innings after Kennedy departed. Mike Minor logged his fifth save, working a hitless ninth while walking one and striking out two.
“What a job the bullpen did to help him get that win,” Yost said.
Mike Moustakas had three of the nine Kansas City hits.
The Royals scored a run off Zack Greinke in the first inning. Merrifield led off with a single but was thrown out attempting to steal second when Lorenzo Cain struck out.
Next, Melky Cabrera doubled and scored on Eric Hosmer’s opposite-field single. Hosmer went to third on Moustakas’ single, but Greinke struck out Brandon Moss to prevent further damage.
The Diamondbacks tied it 1-1 in the second when Jake Lamb led off with a home run to right off Ian Kennedy. That set a Diamondbacks record with 217 home runs in a season.
”Every time that you talk about some historical records or club records, you’re doing something right,“ Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. ”We have good players. Good players that study, pay attention, engage, adjust, and it’s translating.
“I didn’t have any idea that we were on that path. But I‘m very proud of these guys. I‘m proud of that moment.”
The Royals regained the lead in the third on Merrifield’s 19th home run that went just inside the left-field foul pole on a 1-0 Greinke pitch.
Greinke, who pitched his first seven years in the majors with Kansas City, was pulled after 75 pitches and four-plus innings. He was on a limited pitch count as he will start the wild-card game on Wednesday.
”I thought he had a pretty good outing and some of the feedback I was getting was that he was starting to sharpen up some pitches and he felt very good,“ Lovullo said. ”We just wanted to get him between 70 and 75 pitches.
“I think it worked out really, really well overall for the outing. He gave up two runs in almost five innings of work against a team that can swing the bats pretty well.”
The Royals remain the only team that Greinke has not beaten in his career.
Greinke walked Alex Gordon and Drew Butera, the Royals’ eighth and ninth hitters, to lead off the fifth and was replaced by Dave Hernandez, who retired the next three hitters. Greinke allowed two runs in four innings on six hits, ending the season with a 3.20 ERA.
“It wasn’t perfect, but it was alright,” Greinke said of his performance.
Kennedy was removed after five innings, giving up one run and four hits while striking out seven and walking one.
NOTES: The Diamondbacks are optimistic that C Jeff Mathis, who is out with a fractured right hand, could start one of the final two games and be on the postseason roster. ... Royals C Salvador Perez, who left the game Thursday with a groin strain, did not play. ... Diamondbacks SS Chris Owings, who fractured his right middle finger on July 31, is rehabbing in the instructional league in Arizona. ... Don Free, who is retiring as the Royals radio producer/engineer after 32 years, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Diamondbacks RHP Taijuan Walker and Royals rookie RHP Jake Junis are the Saturday probables.