Kennedy faces revitalized Sanchez as Royals seek sweep at Detroit
DETROIT — Ian Kennedy didn’t get a lot of run support early in the season. That has changed dramatically in the past two months.
The Kansas City Royals won seven of the past eight games started by the veteran right-hander. They averaged 5.9 runs during that stretch.
The Royals’ offense provided a comfort level for all of the team’s starters in the past week. Kennedy will start Wednesday at Detroit as Kansas City carries a seven-game winning streak into the finale of a three-game series.
“We’ve been getting a lot of those big hits lately, those timely hits,” Kennedy said. “Whether we’re scoring a lot of runs or not, we’re manufacturing runs. We’re playing the type of baseball you need to win these games.”
Kennedy (3-6, 4.61 ERA) lost his first six decisions this season, in part because the offense got off to a slow start. The Royals produced only seven runs in his first five outings.
He hasn’t lost a decision since June 5. Kennedy gave up three or fewer earned runs in six consecutive starts before he allowed six runs (five earned) to the Chicago White Sox in four innings Friday. Half of those runs came on Yoan Moncada’s bases-loaded triple.
“I wasn’t locating,” Kennedy said. “That’s usually how it is when you don’t throw well and you get hit. I was one pitch away from having a good start. You’re always one pitch away from having a bad start, and that’s what happened.”
Kennedy notched one of his wins last month at Comerica Park. He limited the Tigers to two runs and five hits in seven innings June 28.
“I think I was just throwing strikes,” said Kennedy, who is 2-4 with a 4.34 ERA in eight career starts against Detroit. “With this type of offense, you’ve got to stay ahead of guys and make good pitches because they have a lot of power. They start off with (Ian) Kinsler up there, and all those guys throughout the lineup can hit.”
Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 5.95 ERA) will be Kennedy’s mound opponent. Sanchez has revived his career after a stint in the minors. Detroit has won all four games started by Sanchez this month.
In his last outing, Sanchez collected his second victory while holding the Minnesota Twins to three runs in 5 2/3 innings Friday.
“I feel good right now,” Sanchez said. “In my last bullpen (session), I had better command, better arm speed. That’s what I’m looking for. I’ve prepared really well for (Wednesday). Hopefully, I’ll have a good game.”
Sanchez had the ability to overpower batters earlier in his Tigers career. He struck out 202 batters in 182 innings in 2013, including a career-high 17-strikeout game against the Atlanta Braves.
He now relies more on guile and deception, with pitch speed being a key factor. He even throws what he calls his butterfly pitch at a super-slow rate.
“Every pitcher is totally different,” he said. “(Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer) throw 97 or 98 (mph). I can throw 92, but I control my change at 65. That separation allows me to throw the fastball at 92, but it looks like 97 or 98 when I throw that slow (changeup).”
Sanchez hasn’t faced Kansas City this season, but he is very familiar with the lineup. He has made 15 career appearances against the Royals, including 13 starts, and has a 6-4 record and a 2.66 ERA in those outings.