Ian Kennedy pitched seven strong innings of two hit, one run baseball and the Kansas Royals’ bats pounded out 13 hits enroute to a 6-2 win over the Houston Astros in the series finale on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Kansas City improved to 3-1 to open it’s seven game road trip while Houston dropped it’s third consecutive series to open the 2016 season.
Kennedy left Houston looking for answers after a second successive game in which the team bats were virtually silent. Mike Moustakas’ solo homerun with one out in the first got things started for Kansas City. Houston starter Doug Fister retired 13 of the next 15 hitters before running into trouble in the sixth which proved his undoing.
“We just didn’t play well tonight. They out played us in the series,” said manager A.J. Hinch folowing the game. “I think what you find against good teams when you give them opportunities or extra things, they capitalize on them. The Royals are the best at that. They don’t let you up off the mat, once they get you down and it’s a tribute to how they play the game and the success that they’ve had.”
And capitalize they did. Had George Springer not lost Lorenzo Cain’s ball in the lights, the sixth inning would have been over but he did lose the ball in the lights and Kansas City made Fister and the Astros pay. Consecutive doubles from Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon followed by an rbi single from Salvador Perez ended Fister’s night on the mound. It was October 14, 2015 all over again. Until that fateful sixth, the Houston right-hander had given up just one run on three hits.
Carlos Gomez’ lead-off single in the sixth broke up Kennedy’s bid for a no-hitter and Jose Altuve’s lead-off homerun into the Houston bullpen in the seventh ended the shutout. The Astros managed one more tally in the ninth on an rbi infield single from Carlos Correa.
Houston has lost four of its last five, it’s only win coming in Monday’s Opening Day celebration at Minute Maid Park. As the early season losses continue to mount, the desperation becomes more evident from one pitch to the next, from one play to the next. Prior to the Thursday night’s loss, the team was loose and players were dancing, joking and generally in a great mood. How does that change as the Royals who have quickly become a thorn in the Astros side leave town and the Detroit Tigers come calling.
“It’s important for us to make an adjustment to not carry the baggage of the first ten games with us. I sense a little bit of guys trying to make up for lost time, lost at bats, lost wins and that’s not how this game is played,” continued Hinch trying to explain the team’s mindset after another tough loss. “Our players know that. They’re not trying to carry the extra load. We’re better than that and we’re going to be better than that as the tides begin to turn a little bit.
As Detroit enters, Houston needs to get back on track and quick before they fall much further behind. The Tigers currently boast the second best hitting team in the majors while the Houston pitching staff is ranked number 27th. Only Only the Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies are worse.
Currently, three games behind the Los Angeles Angels, the Astros turn to ace Dallas Keuchel. The pitching begins and starts with the 2015 American League Cy Young winner. The left-hander was nearly unbeatable and unhittable at Minute Maid last season. Friday night marks his first start at home in 2016.
“We’re going to get this thing rolling where we are hitting on cylinders.We clearly aren’t after ten games. It doesn’t define who we are, it doesn’t define what we are going to be,” stressed Hinch ahead of tonight’s game. “It does describe what the first ten days have felt like so we’ll be positive. New series tomorrow there’s no reason to carry the frustration of a rough start into a new series.”