The Ian Kennedy who had emphatically and triumphantly introduced himself through his first three starts in a Royals uniform was decidedly absent in Anaheim tonight. Starting with an interminable first inning, Kennedy struggled mightily with his command, missing his spots both in and out of the strike zone.
All of tonight's action should be prefaced with the following information. The Angels offense has been putrid this season. They have been the worst offense in the American League when measured by wOBA or wRC+. Their .271 wOBA entering tonight's action was only exceeded in futility by the Braves' .267 mark. That the Angels have Mike Trout and the Braves are rocketing towards a 100-loss season shows just how abysmal the Angels offense have been. Or to put it into terms any Royals fan can understand, Omar Infante's .279 wOBA was .008 better than the Angels' entire offense (their 77 wRC+ were identical heading into tonight), and he doesn't have the benefit of Mike Trout getting 11.7% of his plate appearances.
All of tonight's action should be prefaced with the following information. The Angels offense has been putrid this season. . . Omar Infante's .279 wOBA was .008 better than the Angels' entire offense, and he doesn't have the benefit of Mike Trout getting 11.7% of his plate appearances.
Are the Angels nearly as bad offensively as the awful-by-design Braves? Probably not. But the fact remains that despite early underwhelming performances from nearly their entire offensive roster regression to the mean isn't likely to turn them into the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays.
That Kennedy struggled with these Angels is not encouraging.
Just three pitches into the game, Kennedy had already issued his first free pass, though that free pass was of the hit-by-pitch variety. With the baseball gods having deemed hitting Yunel Escobar with a pitch an affront to good taste or at least to good baseball, heir to the Ortega Chili fortune - Mexican meals made easy™ - Rafael Ortega hugged the foul line with a trickler that never worked its way foul. Intent upon digging his hole deeper, Kennedy walked Mike Trout on five pitches. Bases loaded, Pujols chopped a grounder right back to Kennedy, who dropped the ball, the gaffe negating a potential double-play but still getting the lead runner at home for the first merciful out of the inning.
Of course, Kennedy decided he hadn't boned himself enough, so he uncorked a wild pitch on a curve in the dirt that nearly hit Kole Calhoun in the foot on its way to the backstop via a carom off Salvador Perez's chest protector. The first Angel run crossed the plate. Trout and Pujols advanced to third and second, respectively. The Red Menace (to whom the menace is to be directed is yet to be determined) induced a ground ball from Calhoun, but with Mike Trout at third, the only play for Hosmer fielding the ball was to make the out at first. Andrelton Simmons followed with a single, driving in Pujols, and the Angels held a 3 - 0 lead.
Facing the murderer's row of Carlos Perez, Ji-Man Choi, Yunel Escobar, and Rafael Ortega, Kennedy allowed a lead-off single but otherwise worked efficiently for a scoreless second frame. His grandchildren will never grow weary of hearing about this particular inning of work, despite being regaled with the feat more than 100 times.
After inducing a pop-out from lead-off batter Mike Trout in the third, Kennedy grooved a fastball down the heart of the strike zone to Albert Pujols.
It was obliterated.
His grandchildren will not hear about that pitch.
The third inning should have been worse for Kennedy.
Feeling like Calhoun was the one who got away in the first when he nearly hit him with that wild pitch that scored the first run of the game, Kennedy hit Calhoun with a curve, his second hit batsman of the night. Still having recorded just one out, Kennedy yielded a single to Andrelton Simmons, who lined it to right. Reigning Gold Glove right fielder Kole Calhoun - who either elects to ignore scouting reports or disregards them altogether as hogwash - decided he was going to test Dyson's arm. In a laser of a throw, Dyson seemed to assert that he was coming for that Gold Glove, gunning down Calhoun at third by a comfortable margin for his second outfield assist since coming back from the disabled list last week.
The throw is really the only highlight of the game for the Royals. It cannot currently be embedded. If you want to watch it, it can be found here.
Rather than runners at first and second with no outs, the defense bailed out Kennedy, and Cliff Pennington struck out to end the third with the Royals' deficit just 4 - 0.
While Kennedy seemed to have little in the way of answers for the Angels' lineup, Angels' starter Garrett Richards had no such trouble with the Royals' offense. For the first three innings, the Royals managed a walk an inning - Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Mike Moustakas again - but otherwise skulked back to the dugout with little more than a whimper uttered while flailing harmlessly at Richards's offerings.
In the fourth, Eric Hosmer worked a lead-off walk, the fourth in as many frames for Richards, and Alex Gordon pulled a grounder toward first that Pujols blew for an error in which Hosmer reached third. Salvador Perez lined a single to left, Hosmer trotted in, and the Royals were finally on the board, trailing 4 - 1.
Kennedy worked around a walk in the bottom of the fourth, facing the minimum thanks to a double-play grounder from Yunel Escobar to Alcides Escobar. Unfortunately the Royals made three quick outs, and Kennedy was back on the mound in what felt like a minute and a half. The Ortega Chili Prince singled but, after Trout struck out looking, was thrown out attempting to steal second. This mattered because two pitches later Albert Pujols scorched another fastball, this one inside, over the fence in left. 5 - 1, the The Angels Angels (pours one out for @twittels).
In his last inning of work, the sixth, Kennedy walked two because why make an already rough start any easier? Neither scored, but that ran his line to seven hits, four walks, two hit batsmen, and two home runs allowed en route to five earned runs allowed over six innings.
Adding insult to insult, Joakim Soria entered the game in relief of Kennedy and grooved a 92-MPH fastball to Mike Trout in the same spot Kennedy hit for Pujols's moonshot dong in the third. Trout's screamed over the wall doing 115 MPH.
Trout's dong was the last run of the night for either team, as the Royals continued to present mild threats only to have them quashed almost instantly.
The Royals managed a mere four hits against Garrett Richards and his relief, Fernando Salas and Joe Smith. They walked five times and went down on strikes seven times.
Meanwhile an Angels' offense that was slashing .217/.287/.322 heading into tonight's game had eight hits, five walks, and two hit batsmen, amassing 15 base-runners and plating six runs thanks in large part to three long balls. Pujols's two-dong night (also the name of his Three Dog Night cover band - yes, he has a cover band of a cover band) saw him pass Reggie Jackson on the all-time home-run list, where he now sits at 13th with 565, four behind Mr. Viagra, Rafael Palmeiro.
Tonight's loss drops the Royals to 12-7, which puts them 1.5 games behind the first place Chicago White Sox. The Royals will look to regroup at the same West Coast start time tomorrow night, turning their hopeful eyes to Edinson Volquez while hoping to feast on the beer-league
balls velocity of Jered Weaver.