The first of four games against the cross-state rival St. Louis Cardinals could not have gone much better for the World Champion Kansas City Royals. After a first inning that concluded with a game knotted at two runs apiece, the Royals jumped all over Adam Wainwright and the suspect St. Louis defense for four runs in the bottom of the second. The 6-2 score at the end of two held until the game’s conclusion.
The Cardinals got things started with a one-out double in the first from Cuban upstart Aledmys Diaz. Paulo Orlando looked to have a play on the ball, and if he had extended into a dive, he might have converted the out. Instead the ball skittered under his glove, and Lorenzo Cain made the play backing up Orlando, limiting Diaz to two bases. A few pitches later, Matt Holliday sent a shot just past the leaping glove of Lorenzo Cain and just over the wall in center, and the Cardinals held a brief 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first, Wainwright struck out Whit Merrifield and Alex Gordon to start, but Cain blooped a single to shallow center and Eric Hosmer worked a walk to put two aboard. Salvador Perez hit a slow roller to Matt Carpenter, who failed to field the ball cleanly with the error loading the bases for the resurgent Kendrys Morales. Morales ripped a liner just over Carpenter, who was playing in shallow right on the shift, and Cain and Hosmer crossed the plate to tie it up.
After a somewhat rocky first, Danny Duffy shifted into high gear. With two straight less than impressive starts preceding this one, Duffy was the dominant starter the Royals have been hoping he would become. He is hardly a finished product, but Duffy took control of this game in the second, holding down one of the most potent offenses in baseball. He allowed six hits, four coming after the first frame. He walked none. He struck out eight. Perhaps most importantly given his history, Duffy was efficacious, pounding the strike zone, not wasting pitches, and completing eight innings with just 101 pitches.
Just how rare was this start? It marked just the second time in Duffy’s career that he went eight innings. With the current state of the Royals’ rotation, this development has to be met with cautious optimism.
Alcides Escobar started the second with an ambush single on Wainwright’s first offering. After a nine-pitch out from Cheslor Cuthbert, Whit Merrifield roped a single on a hit-and-run, sending Escobar racing to third. With runners on the corners, Gordon struck out for the second of an eventual three times, this one looking and a couple inches off the plate outside. As has often been the case for this Royals squad, having two outs working against them paradoxically made their offense more potent.
Lorenzo Cain ripped a single up the middle, plating Escobar. Hosmer followed with a two-run double that he chopped over a leaping Jedd Gyorko, and Perez singled to drive in Hosmer for the sixth Royals’ run of the game. Morales singled, and Perez advanced to third on a fielding error from Stephen Piscotty, but the hemorrhaging finally stopped for Wainwright and the Cardinals as Paulo Orlando grounded into a force out.
The 6-2 win helped the Royals keep pace with first-place Cleveland, who won their tenth straight. The victory takes the Royals’ record to 40-35.