Only three hits for the Angels

In five straight losses against Kansas City, they have man­aged only six runs.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - pe­dro.moura@la­times.com Twit­ter: @pe­dro­moura By Pe­dro Moura

They are stif led by the Royals’ Kennedy, who is per­fect un­til Pen­ning­ton’s homer in the sixth in­ning.

The vic­tims lin­gered, to­gether try­ing to as­cer­tain what went wrong and why. Twenty min­utes af­ter the Angels fell 3-1 to Kansas City on Fri­day, most of their hit­ters lin­gered in An­gel Sta­dium’s home club­house, re­vis­it­ing the night’s events un­til re­porters walked in­side.

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

“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 def­i­nitely don’t.”

That could ap­ply to the rest of the Royals. In five games this sea­son against sub-.500 Kansas City, the Angels (35-36) have mus­tered 21 hits and six runs. They have lost all five. When the teams played in April, Kennedy car­ried a no-hit­ter into the fifth and per­mit­ted two hits over eight shutout in­nings.

“Ev­ery time we’ve seen him, golly, ev­ery­thing’s on the cor­ner, ev­ery­thing looks the same,” Pen­ning­ton said. “When he pitches to us, he’s mak­ing qual­ity pitches.”

On Fri­day, Kennedy man­aged one bet­ter. He towed a per­fect game into the sixth in­ning, fac­ing few three-ball counts and keep­ing his pitch count at a rea­son­able level. With two outs in that in­ning, Pen­ning­ton worked the count to 3-and-1, then pounced on a fast­ball. The util­ity in­fielder ham­mered a homer to right field for his first ex­tra-base hit since Sept. 3. No An­gel had gone as long with­out one since David Eck­stein be­tween 2002 and 2003.

Pen­ning­ton un­der­stands that Kennedy is bet­ter than his non-Angels statis­tics im­ply. They spent a sea­son as team­mates in Ari­zona.

“I know Cliff pretty well,” Kennedy said. “I told him he’s a ter­ri­ble friend.”

At that point, the Angels nearly seized the game. Cameron May­bin slapped a dou­ble down the left-field line and Kole Cal­houn walked, but Al­bert Pu­jols popped out to sec­ond. The Angels’ only rally was squan­dered. For the sev­enth, 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.

Con­sis­tently, Angels starter Jesse Chavez has cruised through most in­nings and then un­rav­eled sud­denly, af­ter a sin­gle or a lead­off walk. Op­po­nents have logged an on-base-plus­slug­ging per­cent­age nearly 300 points bet­ter when run­ners are on base. He said he be­lieves it to stem from a lack of rhythm, from los­ing track of the tim­ing within his quick­ened de­liv­ery out of the stretch.

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 this year’s ar­ray came in the fifth, when Alex Gor­don led off with a sin­gle into cen­ter field. Whit Mer­ri­field soon sin­gled through to right, and Jorge Boni­fa­cio roped a line drive bound for the right­cen­ter 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. This week, pitch­ing coach Charles Nagy sug­gested he try to think of his me­chan­ics as a song, the same rhythm over and over. Chavez never lost track of the beat.

“The tempo was there,” he said. “The rhythm was there.”

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 the tworun mar­gin re­mained as the top of the Angels’ or­der ap­proached for their last hacks.

Kelvin Her­rera en­tered, still smart­ing af­ter sur­ren­der­ing seven runs in 21⁄3 in­nings to Hous­ton, the Angels’ Amer­i­can League West ri­vals. 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. Games with­out runs tend to run quickly.

Sean M. Haffey Getty Im­ages

THE ROYALS’ Lorenzo Cain home­red twice and knocked in three runs against the Angels on Fri­day night.

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