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.
“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-plus-slugging 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 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. 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 two-run 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.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura