Royals. Angels meet with high hopes (Jun 16, 2017)

BY AP • June 16, 2017

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It was just a few years ago -- in 2014 to be exact -- that the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels met in the AL Division Series. They would like to think their four-game series this week is a prelude to another postseason run.

The Royals, the 2015 World Series champions, have won five straight and are making noise in the AL Central, a division from which no one has emerged as a clear favorite. The Royals have scored 42 runs and clubbed 14 home runs in their run.

The Angels have had an onerous season of injuries, including the first career disabled-list stint for Mike Trout. But just three AL teams have more wins and they're in a crowded field for wild-card opportunities.

Friday's game matches pitchers important to both team's chances as midseason nears.

Ian Kennedy, 32, is in his second year with the Royals. He went 11-11 with a 3.68 ERA last season. He has 86 career wins, including a 21-4 record for Arizona in 2011 and three solid seasons with the San Diego Padres.

Kennedy is 0-6 with a 5.40 ERA in 2017, but the numbers don't tell the whole story. He had a great April -- a 2.30 ERA in six starts, including an eight-inning, two-hit effort that yielded him a no-decision in a 1-0 victory versus the Angels. Kennedy is 0-4 with a 4.80 ERA in six career games against the Angels.

Then came a hamstring/groin strain that sent him to the DL, and his comeback has been slow.

"It's been tougher than I thought it would be, and I created some bad habits," Kennedy told Kansas City media before his last start. "I was pitching well before that, which kind of stinks. That is why the numbers are kind of askew. A couple of bad outings can really screw everything up."

He has allowed four or more runs in his last six starts, but said he feels healthy. He also has gotten horrible run support all season, the Royals averaging less than three runs in his starts.

His opponent Friday, Jesse Chavez (5-6, 5.06), was an early savior for the Angels, moving from the bullpen to the rotation because of injuries. He has thrown seven strong innings three times. Except for an issue with home runs (17 in 74 2/3 innings), he has been dependable.

He also has received lousy offensive support, the Angels scoring three runs or less in eight of his starts. He's 0-1 with a 1.65 ERA in six career appearances against the Royals.

His last outing lasted only 3 2/3 innings, with four hits, four walks and six runs allowed. That start underscored a struggle with runners on base, an oddity because he has been a reliever for all but three of his major league seasons.

"There's something going on out of the stretch that keeps elongating those innings," Chavez told the L.A. Times after the Houston outing. "We've gotta nip it in the bud before it gets too late. We're in June, and it's been the nemesis of this year."

Chavez and the Angels also are wary of his career tendency to fade in the second half of the season. He has held opponents to a slash line of .251/.310/.400 in the first half of the season (pre-All-Star break). After the break, his slash line has exploded to .294/.356/.497.

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