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Kennedy brings sweet relief to weary bullpen

Royals starter delivers 2nd straight quality start in 3-1 win
MLB.com @DougMillerMLB

SEATTLE -- The Royals arrived in Seattle with a beleaguered bullpen, and before Monday's game against the Mariners began, Kansas City manager Ned Yost was unsure about his options for relief for the series opener.

One thing of which he was quite sure: He needed, make that really needed, starter Ian Kennedy to pitch deep into the game.

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SEATTLE -- The Royals arrived in Seattle with a beleaguered bullpen, and before Monday's game against the Mariners began, Kansas City manager Ned Yost was unsure about his options for relief for the series opener.

One thing of which he was quite sure: He needed, make that really needed, starter Ian Kennedy to pitch deep into the game.

View Full Game Coverage

Kennedy answered the call in a 3-1 win, turning in his second consecutive quality start by tossing 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He gave up only four singles while striking out seven. He walked two batters and uncorked two wild pitches, but he wiggled out of trouble when he needed to, and three relievers combined to preserve the win in a tidy 2 hours and 28 minutes.

"It worked out perfectly," Yost said. "That's about all we had."

The Mariners' biggest threat came in the second inning, when two walks and a base hit had loaded the bases with one out, and Kennedy's first wild pitch brought in Seattle's only run. Kennedy did what he had to do, however, striking out Mike Zunino and Boog Powell in succession to escape.

"He was great in the first and great in every inning after [the second], too," Yost said. "Really good curveball again, he commanded his stuff extremely well and just pitched a great game."

The Mariners only got one more runner as far as second base during Kennedy's entire outing, and when it came time for the firemen to come in and put the victory on ice, they were fresh enough to do it.

Peter Moylan replaced Kennedy with two outs and a runner on second in the seventh, striking out pinch-hitter Nelson Cruz on three pitches, then getting the first out in the eighth on one pitch. Neftali Feliz came in and took care of the second and third outs in that frame on seven pitches. Then Joakim Soria, in at closer because Kelvin Herrera was down for the night, got the three final outs in 10 pitches.

Video: KC@SEA: Soria fans Valenica to seal Royals' win

That's a total of 21 pitches by three relievers in 2 1/3 innings. In other words, the definition of optimal for Yost and the Royals on a thin night, all made possible by the length and brilliance of Kennedy.

"He's got kind of a rising fastball, and even though it's not 96 or 97, it plays up because it's at the top of the strike zone, which is a tough pitch to hit and a tough pitch to lay off of," Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

"The combination of that with the breaking ball down below and locating the way he was, he pitched a good ballgame." 

And an important one. Kennedy admitted that he was well aware of the situation at hand and of where his pitch count was taking him.

"No matter what, you want to go as deep as you possibly can, and some of our guys have been worn out a little bit," Kennedy said.

"So yeah, you want to do as much as you can."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Ian Kennedy