Kennedy faces Twins for a third straight start as Royals go for series win

Ian Kennedy will make his second start since returning from the DL as the Royals face the Twins on Saturday night.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano took batting practice Friday afternoon and are inching closer to returning to action, but they are not likely to be in the Minnesota starting lineup Saturday when the Twins continue a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Garver took a foul ball off his face mask while catching Sunday afternoon and has been out all week. Meanwhile, Sano is into his second week of recovery after bruising his lower left leg last week at Houston.

The Twins are taking a cautious approach with both players, who expect to return before the end of the regular season.

“I want to finish strong,” Sano said. “I’ve had a struggling year. I want to finish strong.”

The Royals will be waiting for an injury report of their own after right-hander Jorge Lopez left Friday’s game in the fifth inning after suffering a left rib contusion.

Lopez fell three outs short of a perfect game in his previous start last Saturday, and he had pitched four scoreless innings Friday before he collided with third baseman Hunter Dozier while chasing a fly ball hit by Willians Astudillo.

“He hit me with his right shoulder by the chest,” Lopez said. “I just reacted to the ball. I didn’t know it was going that far. I should not be there. He hit me pretty well.”

Lopez came back out for the fifth inning but signaled for the trainer after recording one out.

“If I breathe hard, it’s bothering me a little bit,” Lopez said. “It’s not like a pinch. It’s like tightness. Something that’s really tight. Hopefully I can come back in six days. That’s something I care about, my career.”

Lopez will undergo further testing, including an MRI, on Saturday. X-rays taken Friday night showed no fractures.

“They say they didn’t find anything (bad),” Lopez said. “Tomorrow they’ll see if they see something more.”

After taking the first two games of the series with late-inning rallies, the Royals will try to clinch a series victory Saturday behind Ian Kennedy (1-8, 4.92 ERA), who will be facing the Twins for a third consecutive start.

Kennedy gave up two runs over three innings at Minnesota on July 10, but he strained his left oblique in that contest and missed the next two months. He returned from the disabled list on Sunday and allowed just a run over six innings while striking out six. Kennedy did get a decision, though, as the Twins won the game 3-1.

“(Kennedy) threw the ball well,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He really did. Tried to go down, back-foot slider on the one run he gave up and kind of left it middle in a little bit. But outside of that, got to our target zone. We wanted to go somewhere between 80 and 90 pitches. He was around 95 and still strong at that point. So that was good. He looked completely healthy and looked like old Ian.”

Kennedy is 4-4 with a 4.33 ERA in 14 career starts against the Twins.

Twins right-hander Chase De Jong (0-0, 0.00) will make his second straight start against the Royals on Saturday. De Jong held Kansas City scoreless over four innings last Sunday, striking out five batters in his first major-league action of the season.

He will be going against Kennedy for the second straight start.