TORONTO — About a week ago, as his right shoulder ached and his season lay in ruins, Royals starter Ian Kennedy stood in front of a mirror.
He had put up a putrid 9.57 ERA in the month of August and logged two mediocre starts in September. He would sit 10 days to rest a fatigued rotator cuff. It was the kind of performance that could spur some self reflection. Yet as Kennedy took stock, he noticed something else: His beard was out of control.
“Might be the longest it’s ever been,” he said.
Dark reddish and unkempt, the follicles offered a brief history of his volatile season. The last time he trimmed it short — around April — he felt good. As it filled out, everything went wrong. He strained his hamstring in May. He pitched poorly thereafter. He found his mechanics in July — only to have his shoulder betray him in August.
On Tuesday night, Kennedy returned to the mound in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. For five innings, he resembled something close to his best self, commanding his fastball and filling the strike zone. He was done in by an misplaced change-up to Toronto’s Darwin Barney in the sixth and a Royals offense that remained sleepy all night.
The change-up — which came on an 0-2 pitch in a scoreless game — was whacked over the left-field fence for a two-run homer. The Blue Jays tacked on three more runs against the Kansas City bullpen. The offense managed just one against Toronto starter Marcus Stroman, who lasted seven innings.
Big picture: The Royals lost for the fifth time in six games, falling to 73-77. The stretch has hastened their exit from the American League wild card race and left them stumbling toward the finish line.
On Tuesday, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain were back in the lineup following a day out of the lineup on Sunday and the season’s final off day on Monday. Their presence did little to spark production.
Moustakas recorded a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Alex Gordon hit a solo homer in the eighth that instantly became a part of history.
Gordon’s blast represented the 5,694th home run of the 2017 major-league season, setting the all-time record with 12 days left.
By the end, it was simply a bit of trivia.