Standing five days off from the stench of a four-run one-plus inning and with serious concerns about the long-term viability of the starting rotation in its current state, Danny Duffy wasted little time in replenishing the malodorous fog that had been been dissipating (albeit slightly) with time. With his ineffectiveness last Wednesday having taxed the pen so heavily the last time he pitched, Duffy was also predestined to bear an agony much more prolonged than in his prior shellacking.
There are an abundance of descriptors, qualifiers, and quantifiers to highlight just how poorly he pitched, but the most accurate may be to evoke the memories of Vin Mazzaro, Aaron Brooks, and Eduardo Villacis. Those pitchers owned outings that live on in The Perpetual Nightmare Chamber situated in the Special Wing of Ignominy for a franchise who spent the greater part of the past two decades constructing a museum rivaling the Louvre in its size and scope but dedicated solely to lower forms of art servicing darker gods, feeding the leering eye of those seeking out schadenfreude--all the product of a vision fueled by a level of indifference and parsimony that an outside observer may see fit to deem its auteur either contemptuous of success or a reptilian sociopath. In a franchise history colored with low points so dark and deeply carved into the Earth's surface as to make one wonder if the sun had been permanently extinguished, Duffy's start tonight hearkened back to that darker era that seemed to be firmly in the past.
Tonight, Duffy could not find the strike zone. After a rough but scoreless first inning, Duffy walked Robinson Chirinos on seven pitches to start off the second. He wasted no strikes in giving Leonys Martin a free pass to follow and then walked Tommy Field--who was getting his first major-league action since 2013 as today's replacement for the optioned Rougned Odor--in an eight-pitch plate appearance. On the seventh pitch of the next at-bat, Delino DeShields, Jr. doubled to left plating the first two Rangers runs of the evening. With Shin-Soo Choo at the dish, Duffy uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Field from third and moving DeShields to third. On the sixth pitch of the Choo at-bat, the Rangers' right fielder singled up the middle, driving in the fourth Texas run of the inning. For those keeping track at home, that's 32 pitches in the second with no outs recorded. Five pitches later, Elvis Andrus found himself standing on first thanks to Duffy's fourth walk of the inning. On the eighth pitch to Prince Fielder, Duffy struck him out on a foul tip, marking the first out on the 45th pitch of the frame. Two pitches later, Adrian Beltre hit a grounder to Alcides Escobar, who was perhaps caught off guard that the ball was hit to him in the midst of an interminable inning, sloppily exchanged the ball from glove to hand and recorded just the force at second rather than putting a merciful end to the inning. Facing Kyle Blanks, Duffy induced a long fly ball that Alex Gordon caught on the warning track, though a different fate seemed certain for each millisecond that the ball hung in the air. That was the 49th and final pitch of the inning, but Duffy was not done for the night.
Duffy kicked off the third by walking Chirinos again, leading anyone watching to believe that they may in fact be stuck in an inescapable nightmare loop of Hellish origins. Thankfully Duffy sent down the next three batsmen in order, preserving sanity across the heartland. Of course, Choo led the fourth off with a single, and three batters later, Adrian Beltre belted his fourth home run of the season, putting Texas up 6 - 1.
That was the end of Duffy's night as Yohan Pino came in to record the final out of the inning and throw three more frames in mop-up duty. Eleven outs recorded. Six earned runs allowed. 98 pitches. 54 of those were for strikes. The horrors of his six walks were burned into the psyche of anyone who watched as he helplessly found himself unable to throw anywhere near the strike zone. He struck out four--somewhat surprisingly given that he and the strike zone appeared to be mortal enemies from the second inning on--but was lucky enough to have gotten a call on the edge of the strike zone low and away to DeShields in the third that someone missing as often as he was probably has no business getting.
Once Pino came in, the Rangers offense quieted down. He and Franklin Morales (who pitched the eighth) each allowed solo shots--Pino to Tommy Field and Morales to Prince Fielder--but otherwise the Rangers' attack slowed.
The Royals' offense did little to answer the Rangers' early battering, but the hole dug was a cavernous one. Aside from Alcides Escobar--who singled, doubled, and was hit by a pitch--and Alex Gordon--who drew two walks--the Royals managed just four other baserunners all night. They managed two runs. With Escobar at third and Mike Moustakas at second, Kendrys Morales singled with two outs in the fourth. Escobar scored safely, but Mike Jirschele must have been replaced as the third base coach by Dave Owens, and Moustakas was waved home in a foolish attempt to challenge Leonys Martin's arm in center. Moustakas slid in to home with the ball safely waiting for him in Robinson Chirinos's glove. Down 7 - 1 in the top of the eighth, Alcides Escobar doubled to deep left-center, driving in Omar Infante for the second and final Kansas City run of the game, which would then be matched with Fielder's dong hanging in the bottom half of the frame.
While such offensive impotence is obviously a bit concerning, Colby Lewis looked sharp tonight. The real concern that would seem to be rearing its head in Kansas City is: what can be done about Duffy? With Jason Vargas already on the disabled list, sixth starter Chris Young--who appears to be the Royals number two or three starter at this juncture--has already been inserted into the starting rotation. A sustained period of hard-fought struggling from Danny Duffy is not something this team has the luxury of trying to persevere. Something seems to be amiss with Duffy in his last two starts, and with Jeremy Guthrie and Yordano Ventura struggling in their own ways, the rotation seems on the verge of imploding.
First place still belongs to the Royals--the lead down to a game as Detroit was idle--but it increasingly feels that the foundation upon which their early season run has been built was done so upon a house of cards.