The Royals, for whatever reason, have had a home/road split only a mother could love. Before tonight, the Royals had been 27-11 at home in Kauffman Stadium and roughly 1-1738 away. They had been losers of four straight and, with Cleveland's surge, were squeaking back towards the playoffless gutter that had been the Royals' home for decades. So could the Royals regain Royal Devil Magic?
Yes. Yes they can. Considering you all can read the title, and can easily search the score of the game, there's no point in keeping it a secret.
It began with Danny Duffy. Duffy has been a revelation this year, perhaps not quite as much as Zack Greinke was seven years ago, but similarly out of nowhere. After injury, inconsistency, waste of his raw talent as a starter, Duffy has more or less become the lefty version of James Shields (the Royals one, not the Padres/White Sox one of today). Over his last three starts, he has twirled 19 innings and allowed six runs. Over those innings, he has struck out 23 batters and walked only one. As the Royals' current rotation has been somewhere between moldy cheese and the sweaty-greasy man bun on top of Josh Donaldson's head in terms of effectiveness. Duffy has been the lone bright spot.
And bright he was. Duffy continued striking out batters. The Mariners retreated from the plate dejected after accruing three strikes seven times against the Californian southpaw. Duffy was able to go 6.1 innnings, going into or past the seventh inning for the third straight start of this season.
Duffy wasn't perfect by any means. For whatever reason, the Mariners were able to grab a bunch of hits from Duffy, including a trio of doubles. They poked a run in the second and fifth innings, but good pitchers always tend to squeak out of jams, and Duffy has turned into quite the monster. The 6' 3" Duffy has an upper-90s fastball, biting breaking ball, and surprisingly good changeup. It's hard to sustain offense against that, and the Mariners could only manage a brief flurry at a time. Duffy was finally chased in the seventh inning after issuing his first walk of the game, but new pitcher Peter Moylan escaped the inning unharmed. Joakim Soria allowed a solo home run in the eighth inning amid a trio of strikeouts and a double, but that was only Seattle's third run against Kansas City.
For a long time, that was significantly more than enough. The Royals hit into a double play in each of the first three innings, matching their previous 2016 record a third of the way through the game. Indeed, the Royals later recorded a fourth double play, creating a new record high for the year (or low, depending on your point of view). After the top of the eighth inning, I had already crafted a recap perfect for the game, as seen here in editorial:
Fortunately for the rest of you, Draft for a Sad Game was unneeded due to continued late-inning heroics. In the eighth inning, the Royals finally gathered some runs. Salvador Perez and Cheslor Cuthbert singles put two on with nobody out. Brett Eibner popped out, but Alcides Escobar was at least able to get a productive out, moving Perez and Cuthbert to second and third base. Paulo Orlando then shot a line drive into right-center field, making it 3-2 Mariners. Soria's home run allowed in the eighth inning loomed large.
But the Royals look at large-looming things, laugh at them, and then beat them in a throw from first base to home plate. Not three minutes after Fox Sports Kansas City displayed a graphic saying that the Mariners had 15 blown saves, most in baseball, did the Royals have more baserunners. Whit Merrifield doubled on a low line drive just past third base. Kendrys Morales was then hit by a pitch (on a pitch he was swinging at, which takes talent) and replaced by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson at first base. Eric Hosmer struck out swinging, but Perez did not. For Perez's third hit of the night, he smashed a double to center field, scoring Merrifield and Dyson for the Royals' sixth walk-off victory of the year. In his second major-league game, Brooks Pounders picked up his first major-league win by pitching a scoreless top of the ninth. It was a Game.
With a Cleveland Indians loss, the Royals now move to seven games behind first place, though they remain only 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot and only 3.5 games out of the first one. For now, at least, home is indeed where the heart is.