Royals turn to Kennedy to keep team steady

The Royals have won the last three times Ian Kennedy has taken the mound, including his only victory of the season over 13 starts.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — Recent run support has helped Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy, who has had precious little much of this season.

In Kennedy’s first 10 starts of 2017, Kansas City averaged 2.8 runs. Over his last three — all Royals wins — KC totaled 21 runs. And in the second of those three games he earned his first win of the season.

“He started the year out really well,” manager Ned Yost said. “We couldn’t score any runs for him. He was getting like one run a game. Then he had a hamstring pull, and that affected his command when he came back, but he’s been throwing the ball really well his last three or four starts.”

Kennedy (1-6, 4.95 ERA) hasn’t given up more than six hits in any of his starts, but he has allowed at least one homer in 10 consecutive outings. He is 1-4 with a 4.66 ERA in seven career starts against Detroit. In his only previous start against the Tigers this season, he allowed five runs and four hits in three innings and took the loss May 31.

“He’s kept us in just about every game that he’s pitched,” Yost said.

In the second game of a three-game series at Detroit, Kennedy will face left-hander Daniel Norris, who lost his last start at Seattle on Thursday. Norris (4-5, 4.66 ERA) gave up five runs in the first three innings, then settled down and tossed three scoreless innings before he was replaced.

“I’d have to say that was one of my most mature outings, just because the first three innings were probably as bad as possible, giving up five runs,” Norris said Tuesday. “The turning point was going out for the fourth. It could have kept going that route, (but) for me, I just had to fight my way through it, and I found a little groove there. The big part was just getting through six innings and saving the bullpen a little bit.”

Norris has made five career starts against the Royals, going 0-1 with a 3.81 ERA. In his one start against Kansas City this season, Norris went five innings, allowing three runs on six hits without getting a decision May 29.

The Tigers are hoping to get a boost from the return of Victor Martinez. The designated hitter is expected to be activated from the 10-day disabled list Wednesday. The Tigers endured an eight-game losing streak shortly after Martinez was sidelined with an irregular heartbeat.

Detroit has won its past two games but is still 5-13 over the past 18 games.

Martinez is just glad he didn’t have a more serious problem.

“I was definitely scared,” he said. “It makes you appreciate your life.”

Martinez, who hasn’t played since June 15, took batting practice Tuesday for the first time since he was cleared for baseball activities. He batted .261 with five homers and 29 RBIs before he was sidelined.

“There shouldn’t be a ton of rust,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “It was good to know about six or seven days ago that he was feeling a lot better. He was rightfully worried about it.”