A 7-3 victory, normally, is routine stuff. Safe and comfortable. But for the Royals this season at Kauffman Stadium, there is no safe and comfortable. So Saturday offered an edginess that, really, was likely more imagined than real.
Fact is, veteran left-hander Bruce Chen provided the Royals and their battered rotation with just the sort of tourniquet needed by working out of some early jams and carrying a shutout into the seventh inning.
And a bullpen that showed some shakes in three preceding losses minimized damage over the closing innings. In between, the Royals got home runs from Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas — along with a RBI single from Eric Hosmer — in an encouraging show of offense.
Throw in some nice defense — including an assist to the plate by center fielder Jarrod Dyson for an inning-ending double play — and this, really, was a pretty complete effort. But when a team is 4-16 at home, and has blown multi-run leads in three straight losses
Yes, there was a flush of relief when closer Jonathan Broxton, in a non-save situation, closed out the victory with a no-stress scoreless ninth inning.
Chen, 3-4, carried a 7-0 lead in the seventh before losing his shutout on doubles by Paul Goldschmidt and Ryan Roberts. Aaron Crow surrendered a single to Willie Bloomquist before getting an inning-ending double play.
Both runs were charged to Chen, whose final line showed two runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and two walks. It was his third straight quality start, and it produced his third straight victory.
There was more.
José Mijares replaced Crow after Justin Upton started the eighth with a single. Mijares walked Miguel Montero before yielding a single to Chris Young that loaded the bases with no outs.
Jason Kubel’s sacrifice fly made it 7-3 and brought Greg Holland into the game. Two grounders to second later, and the inning ended with no further damage. Enter Broxton for the ninth.
Arizona starter Ian Kennedy, a 21-game winner last season, gave up six runs and eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings. He fell to 3-4, which matches the number of losses he had all of last season.
Chen opened the game by yielding back-to-back singles but struck out Upton, retired Montero on a grounder to first before ending the inning by gathering in Young’s little pop fly.
That set the tone because Arizona came right back in the second inning when Kubel led off with a double into the right-field corner and went to third on Goldschmidt’s line single to left.
Again, Chen wiggled free.
Cody Ransom struck out, and Ryan Roberts’ fly to short center turned into an inning-ending double play when Jarrod Dyson threw out Kubel at the plate.
That allowed the Royals to take a 1-0 lead in their second, although a failed gamble on the bases kept it from possibly being more.
Moustakas was at first with two outs when Brayan Peña pulled a single to right. Chris Getz followed with a single up the middle that scored Moustakas, but Peña was thrown out easily in trying to go from first to third.
Chen stranded two more runners in the third, after issuing two two-outs walks, by retiring Young on a squibber to the mound.
The Royals extended their lead to 3-0 later in the inning on Butler’s two-out homer. The two-run blast was his club-leading eighth of the season and followed Alcides Escobar’s leadoff single.
Chen opened the fourth by giving up singles to Kubel and Goldschmidt, but Ransom grounded into a double play, and Roberts popped to short.
Moustakas made it 4-0 with a one-out homer later in the inning by pulling a 3-1 fastball into the seats beyond the right-field bullpen.
Chen finally set the Diamondbacks down in order in the fifth, and the Royals responded by scoring two more runs in their half of the inning. Escobar led off with a single, went to second on a balk and to third when Dyson beat out a sacrifice bunt for a single.
Hosmer yanked an RBI single through the right side for a 5-0 lead before a wild pitch moved runners to second and third. Butler’s sacrifice fly to center added another run and finished Kennedy.
The Royals stretched their lead to 7-0 in the sixth against reliever Mike Zagurski on two hits, a walk and Dyson’s sacrifice fly. After that, it was just a matter of counting down outs.