Angels can’t stop Royals from rolling to their sixth straight victory

on Jun17

Twenty minutes after the Angels lost 3-1 to Kansas City on Friday at Angel Stadium, several Angels hitters lingered in the clubhouse and tried to figure out what went wrong.

They had succumbed, again, to the Royals’ Ian Kennedy, the veteran right-hander with a 0.64 ERA against them this season and a 6.29 ERA against everyone.

“We’ve all been talking about it,” said Cliff Pennington, who supplied the lone run. “We’ve gotta figure out what the rest of the league has and we don’t.”

That could apply to the rest of the Royals too. In five games, all losses, against Kansas City this season, the Angels have mustered six runs. They have amassed 21 hits — roughly four per game.

On Friday, Kennedy carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, facing only four three-ball counts. First was Ben Revere, in the third, who saw a first-pitch fastball for a strike and then three misses. He grounded out on the next pitch. With one out in the fifth, Kennedy opened up a 3-and-0 count against Luis Valbuena, then threw back-to-back strikes before Valbuena flied out.

With one out in the sixth, Martin Maldonado battled to a 3-and-2 count, then whiffed at a high fastball. Next up, Pennington worked the count to 3-1, then pounced on a fastball. The utility man hammered a homer to right field for his first extra-base hit of the season.

“Maybe I’ll rattle off 10 in a row here now,” he joked.

Cameron Maybin next slapped a double down the left-field line and Kole Calhoun walked, but Albert Pujols popped out to second. In the seventh inning, Kennedy gave way to left-hander Mike Minor, who did not give up a hit.

The Angels’ last hit was Revere’s eighth-inning single against Joakim Soria.

The Royals made several worthy defensive plays: Merrifield dove to prevent a Maldonado grounder from leaving the infield in the third; Alcides Escobar trapped a fast-moving Revere liner and threw quickly to first in the sixth.

Angels starter Jesse Chavez’s downfall his season has been speeding up out of the stretch. Consistently, he has cruised through most innings and then unraveled suddenly, after a single or a leadoff walk. Opponents have logged an on-base-plus-slugging percentage nearly 300 points better when runners are on base.

That was not an issue Friday, as most of the Royals’ hits came without a man on base. Their first run was a two-out solo shot to left field by Lorenzo Cain in the third inning.

The lone blip that resembled the previous array came in the fifth, when Alex Gordon led off with a single into center field. Whit Merrifield soon singled through to right. Jorge Bonifacio roped a line drive bound for the right-center gap, but Pennington, playing second, speared it at the top of his leap and threw to first to secure a fortunate double play. Cain followed with a clean run-scoring single into right field.

After a leadoff double in the sixth, Chavez retired six straight Royals to match his season-high for innings finished.

His starting-pitching position appeared in jeopardy earlier this week, but his positive performance, in tandem with Matt Shoemaker’s injury and Doug Fister’s triple-A struggles, solidifies his spot some.

“He tried to do a couple things,” Scioscia said of Chavez’s on-base issues. “Tonight, he had a lot of traffic. And, out of the stretch, I think he had good rhythm and tempo and made pitches. Jesse keeps trying to evolve as a pitcher.”

Rookie right-hander Keynan Middleton took over for the eighth and immediately allowed another solo shot to Cain, off a 98-mph fastball. He gave way to closer Bud Norris the next inning, and score remained 3-1.

Kelvin Herrera entered. He induced a tapper from Calhoun, a popout from Pujols, and a groundout from Yunel Escobar.

The game was over in two hours, 38 minutes, one of the shortest the Angels have played this season.

In Kansas City in April, the Angels and Royals twice played in two hours, 37 minutes. It turns out games without hits and runs tend to go quickly.

The Angels (35-36) have hovered within two games of .500 more than one month, and within three games of .500 for all but two of this season’s 77 days.

Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura

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