Kendrys Morales homered twice, and right-hander Ian Kennedy struck out a season-high 11 over seven strong innings as the Royals snapped a four-game losing streak with a 6-1 win over Astros on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
"Quite frankly, he could've had three homers today," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He blasted that first ball, but the wind was blowing straight in.
"He's seeing the ball really, really well right now and swinging the bat very well for us."
Kennedy gave up three hits and one run, a start desperately needed after two straight blowouts by the Astros had depleted the Royals' long-relief corps.
"He just pitched tremendous today," Yost said. "We're in pretty good shape [in terms of the bullpen] going into tomorrow."
The Royals remained five games back of the American League Central-leading Indians. The Astros are 10 games behind the AL West-leading Rangers, who posted a 6-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday.
Right-hander Doug Fister allowed one run through six innings before Morales' second homer in the seventh and Cheslor Cuthbert's two-run homer chased him. Fister gave up eight hits and four runs while striking out six through 6 2/3 innings.
After scoring 26 runs in the first two games of the series, the Astros managed only a solo homer by Evan Gattis in the sixth inning and saw their seven-game winning streak snapped.
"We leave the series thrilled with the two out of three," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, you love to sweep when you get the opportunity. But against a good team, we put up a big number on the first night and the second night. They had their breakout inning in the seventh and we leave with a series win. I'm proud of our guys. We're playing pretty good baseball."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Big Ken goes yard: Morales homered in the fourth inning to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. Then, Morales jumped on a 3-0 pitch from Fister and rocked it into the right-field bullpen, making it 2-1. It was the first multi-homer game of the season for Morales and 15th of his career.
'I'm starting to see the results of being a little more selective at the plate," Morales said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "It's a result of the work I'm putting in, too."
Both homers came left-handed, where Morales was hitting .190 coming into the game.
"The season didn't start good left-handed," he said, "but it's a long season."
Fister's run ends: The right-hander has been the Astros' most reliable starting pitcher this season, but he saw his seven-game winning streak come to an end in taking his first loss since April 25. Fister had given up three runs or fewer in 12 consecutive starts prior to Kansas City tagging him for four runs, and the Astros got their first loss with Fister on the mound since that game on April 25. They had won 10 consecutive games in which he started. More >
"I think the biggest thing was execution," Fister said. "In the last inning, I didn't quite get the job done and Ian pitched well and was a lot better than I was today. My job is to go out there and give our guys a chance, but I didn't do that today, but I have to come back in here in five days and get back on the horse."
Stay hot, Cuthbert: Cuthbert helped put the game away with a two-run shot in the seventh. It was Cuthbert's seventh homer of the season, and fifth in his last 14 games. He's also driven in 12 runs in that span.
"We knew he had power," Yost said. "It's not 30-homer power, but he can be a guy who can hit 15-20. And he's still young."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS The Astros have homered in 11 consecutive games, their longest streak since July 28-Aug. 10, 2007 (12 games).
AFTER REVIEW The Royals challenged a safe call in the fourth inning as Jose Altuve attempted to steal second after Colby Rasmus struck out with one out. The call was overturned, Altuve was out and the double play ended the inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Right-hander Collin McHugh (5-5, 4.70 ERA) will take the mound on Monday at 9:05 p.m. CT to open a three-game series against the Angels in Anaheim. McHugh held the Angels to two runs in seven innings last Tuesday in Houston.
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (2-1, 3.38) will take the mound on Monday at 7:15 p.m. CT to open a two-game Interleague set against the Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium. Duffy gave up three runs and four hits while striking out eight against the Mets last Wednesday in a no-decision.