Just one day after meeting with the president to celebrate the greatness of their 2015 team, the 2016 Royals could have fooled everyone into thinking that, for one night, last year's squad had retaken the field.
The Royals managed to avoid dipping under .500 for the first time since May 15 on Friday night, clipping the AL West-leading Texas Rangers 3-1 to open up a three-game series. The victory was similar to the way the 2015 squad piled up 95 wins: good pitching, early offensive production, great defense, and a late stand by a lockdown bullpen.
Kansas City scored one run in each of the first three innings to build a quick 3-0 lead. In the first frame, Alcides Escobar led off with a single on an 0-2 pitch, and after a stolen base with a throwing error put him on third, he came home on an Eric Hosmer groundout. One inning later, Whit Merrifield singled home Alex Gordon to double the lead, and in the third, Cheslor Cuthbert launched his ninth home run of the season to make it 3-0.
The Royals were knocking around Texas ace Yu Darvish, and it looked like his night would worsen when Gordon led off the fourth inning with a triple. It was at this point that Darvish settled in, as he escaped the threat. He didn't allow another runner to reach second base for the rest of his outing. However, by that point, the Royals had done all the damage they needed to do.
Danny Duffy was spectacular once again. He worked through 6 2/3 innings against one of baseball's best offenses, only allowing one run in the form of a solo homer by Rougned Odor. The fourth-inning blast marked the first time that a left-handed batter had gone deep against Duffy since May 2011 - a streak that lasted 358 straight at-bats. Strangely, three of the four hits Duffy allowed were by lefties. He left with two on and two out in the seventh, but Luke Hochevar got Mitch Moreland to line out to escape the jam.
Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis worked through the eighth and ninth innings to nail down the Kansas City win. As a staff, the Royals allowed only four hits all evening.
Duffy's final line: 6.2 innings, four hits, one run, two walks, and four strikeouts. He threw an even 100 pitches. He earned the win, improving his record to 6-1.
Darvish took the loss; he is 2-2. He allowed seven hits in 6.0 innings of work, giving up three runs (two of which were earned). He struck out a season-high 11 batters.
Davis earned the save. It is his 21st conversion in 23 chances.
Through 95 games, the Kansas City Royals are 48-47. However, they are a remarkable 31-15 at home. Kauffman Stadium is a great home-field advantage and all, but that's...that's incredible.
Tomorrow night: Yordano Ventura takes on Cole Hamels at 6:10 CDT. For Ventura (6-7, 4.97 ERA), it's another opportunity to out-duel a quality starter, but it won't come easy, as Hamels has been terrific thus far in 2016 (10-2, 3.00).