Kennedy fans nine in five innings, but KC comes back to beat D-backs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Ian Kennedy looks ready for his first opening-day start. Luke Hochevar says he is, too.

Kennedy, a 26-year-old right-hander, struck out nine of the first 18 Kansas City batters he faced in a strong final outing of the spring.

Hochevar, who will pitch the season opener for the Royals, also got his final spring tuneup, allowing four runs and eight hits in four innings before his teammates rallied. Kansas City scored six times in the final two innings to beat the Diamondbacks 9-6 Saturday in front of a sun-drenched sellout crowd of 12,443 at Arizona’s new Salt River Fields home.

Kennedy threw 100 pitches over five innings plus one batter. He allowed three runs and five hits, walking one.

Kila Ka’aihue hit a two-run homer off Kennedy in the first inning.

“I made a mistake to him but overall I felt pretty good,” Kennedy said. “I feel pretty happy about going into the season with those last two starts. My off-speed pitches have been there. I didn’t throw too many changeups today but I feel like my curveball feels pretty good.”

Kennedy was coming off 51⁄3 scoreless innings in his previous outing after a couple of rough starts.

Russell Branyan had a two-run double in Arizona’s three-run first and Kelly Johnson hit a solo home run off Hochevar in the fourth.

Hochevar, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, got better as the day went on.

“I felt in the second, third and fourth I really hit a groove,” he said. “That’s the best I’ve felt all spring. I felt like I had good tempo. I felt like my stuff was sharp and that’s a good thing.”

Royals manager Ned Yost was as optimistic as his pitcher was.

“No doubt,” Yost said. “He’s absolutely ready.”

Hochevar thought those early troubles were just a matter of bad luck in some instances.

“I was just going out trying to execute quality pitches. They had two broke-bat singles in the first I thought were on good-executed cutters,” he said. “Sometimes they just drop. The fastball to Branyan he inside-outted, he popped up down the line. That’s what I want to do with that pitch, but it fell in.”


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