By Pat Turner
Kennedy showed why he is at head of the class Sunday when the righthander scattered six hits and tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts through seven innings in a 5-1 victory over Tulsa at Wolff Stadium.
In addition to finding his zone immediately. Kennedy, who did not walk a batter, made the most of his offensive backing after the Missions struck for five runs in the second inning.
The Missions, winners of the first-half South Division lead, used Sunday’s victory to pad their second-half advantage to seven games over Corpus Christi and Midland.
“Mostly, it was fastball command,” said Kennedy, who owns a 12-6 record and leads the Texas League in strikeouts with 127. “I was putting the pitches where I wanted. If you can have command of your fastball everything works better.”
The outing enabled Kennedy (12-6) to get back on track after his four-game winning streak ended a week ago in the Missions’ 6-0 loss to Midland. There were no lingering side effects present.
“The year’s too long,” Kennedy said. “You have to take it one start at a time. Early in the year I started off with some bad starts, but got over that. Getting through that helped me this time.
“You just look at the grand scheme of things.”
Kennedy started the game by sending down the first eight Tulsa batters, before relief pitcher Tim Shibuya caught him by surprise with a bunt single. Kennedy got his revenge in the fifth. With two outs, Diaz singled and Garrett Kennedy doubled.
The Missions’ Kennedy, however, came back to strike out Shibuya to halt the threat.
Kennedy stopped Tulsa’s bid for a rally once again, recording a strikeout and flyout.
Reliever Dustin Weir got through the eighth inning after giving up a lead single. Jose Castillo then went through a bit of a challenge in the ninth after being greeted with back-to-back singles form Kyle Garlick and Blake Gailen.
However, Castillo made a quick recovery with two strikeouts and a pop up.
The early offensive success benefitted the Missions’ pitchers.
Tulsa pitcher Dennis Santana set the Missions up for a five-run burst in the second when he loaded the bases by hitting Franmil Reyes, walking Nick Schulz and giving up a hit to Noah Perio.
A walk to Stephen McGee scored Reyes and Schulz crossed the plate on a dropped fly to center. With one out, Urias stroked a two-run single, ending Santana’s day.
Tim Shibuya took over and uncorked a wild pitch to bring home another run.
He surrendered singles to Perio and Auston Bousfield in the third, but then retired 10 in a row before departing.
“It was a nice Sunday afternoon ballgame,” Missions manager Phillip Wellman said. “Brett Kennedy just keeps sticking his fastball in there. He goes out there and does his thing. The early lead made him attack even more.”
The Missions begin a three-game series at Springfield Tuesday, before heading to Tulsa for three.