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Morales' seven K's, three homers pace Rox

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In the stretch run of a competition for the Rockies' open starting rotation spot, left-hander Franklin Morales struck out seven in five innings of a 8-2 victory over the Royals on Monday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in front of a sellout crowd of 11,017.

Morales lowered his spring ERA to 2.21 through six Cactus League appearances by holding the Royals to three hits, one walk and an unearned run. The competition for the spot opened by Jhoulys Chacin's strained right shoulder, which could keep him out until mid-May, is between Morales and righty Jordan Lyles, who has a 3.18 ERA in five Cactus League games.

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Morales made his point by mixing a fastball and hard slider with his best curveball of the spring, and threw strikes on 47 of his 73 pitches.

Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado each hit their third homers of the spring. Tulowitzki's led off the second inning against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie. Arenado's two-run shot in the sixth off righty Spencer Patton was a signal that Arenado has healed after being hit in the left hand by a pitch in his last start on Saturday. Arenado went 2-for-3 with two runs, while Tulowitzki drove in another run on a seventh-inning sacrifice fly.

Ryan Wheeler also belted a solo shot in the eighth to cap the scoring. It was Wheeler's second homer and eighth extra-base hit this spring. He's trying to make the club as a left-handed bat off the bench and a backup corner infielder.

After Tulowitzki's homer, Charlie Culberson, bidding for a utility infield job, added a two-run single in the second.

Corey Dickerson continued his bid for starts in center field by doubling off Guthrie to lead off the third and scoring on Justin Morneau's double into center. Dickerson also made a leaping catch against the wall on Alex Gordon's deep drive in the fourth.

The Royals' first run came after Morales' only walk, to Gordon with one out in the second. Morales committed the error when his pickoff throw zoomed past first baseman Morneau and hit first-base umpire Quinn Wolcott. Gordon scored from second on Danny Valencia's two-out single.

Rockies reliever Nick Masset, continuing his comeback from two years outside the Majors because of a right shoulder injury, walked two and relinquished a run on Gordon's sixth-inning single. But Masset forced Justin Maxwell into an inning-ending double-play grounder.

Rockies reliever Tommy Kahnle, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Yankees, continued his bid to stick. The right-hander gave up just his third hit of the spring, but struck out Jarrod Dyson to end the seventh. Kahnle pitched two innings and owns a 0.93 ERA

Up next: Right-hander Juan Nicasio, who has developed some confidence in a split-finger pitch as his change-of-pace, will start on Tuesday against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch at 2:05 p.m. MT.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.

Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado, Franklin Morales, Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Wheeler