Danny Duffy, the Kansas City Royals' best starter and story in this troubled season of theirs, tossed a gem for his first complete game, a 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Duffy struck out six and walked none while Eric Hosmer and Cheslor Cuthbert collected the Royals' RBIs to support him.
The White Sox bullpen hadn't been the dumpster fire that other pens have been coming into tonight's contest, but it hasn't been great, either. Of their nine most used arms this year, three of them have an ERA over 5.50, their closer with an ERA over 4. So when starter Miguel Gonzalez left the game after one inning due to injury, you could almost feel the glee radiating from the Royals' players and fans.With Duffy on the mound, the game felt like an instant win.
For the longest time, though, the Royals came up with nothing, supporting their ace with a stack of jokers. Alcides Escobar, career OPS .636, hit sixth. Drew Butera, career OPS .539, hit seventh. Billy Burns, career OPS .667, bat eighth. Raul Mondesi, career OPS .495, bat ninth. And leadoff? Jarrod Dyson, career OPS .668. It doesn't take much to overcome those batters, and for an excruciating five innings, the White Sox' relatively weak bullpen did.
A single plate appearance in the fourth inning was emblematic of the Royals' struggles. Eric Hosmer, one of the supposedly good hitters in the lineup, stepped up against Michael Ynoa. Ynoa, a 24 year-old rookie whose existence out of the bullpen is due to him failing as a starter, grooved a straight 95 MPH fastball down the middle to Hosmer. Hosmer swung and fouled it off. After two balls and a nice changeup strike later, Hosmer stood 2-2 in the count. Ynoa grooved a straight 96 MPH fastball down the middle. Again, Hosmer fouled it off. Hosmer swung and missed on a changeup out of the zone to complete the strikeout, one of 11 of the day for the Royals squad.
But eventually, the Royals broke through. Dyson worked a walk against Carson Fulmer in the sixth inning, the only walk achieved by tonight's Royals offense. Dyson took off for second, initially being called out, but the Royals challenged and the play was overturned. That proved to be crucial, as Cuthbert stepped to the plate, hammering an opposite-field triple and scoring Dyson. One batter later, Hosmer leaned over and swung at a pitch a foot off the plate--of course plopping into shallow right field for an RBI single. That gave the Royals their second run and the lead.
For many games this year, two runs would not be enough. But the Royals had a secret weapon: Duffy. If I were to describe in a visually creative way what Duffy has become and was like tonight, it would look a little something like this:
Duffy's only blunder came in the second inning, when somebody by the name of Jason Coats knocked in an RBI single against the indomitable lefty. Outside of that, Duffy was almost flawless. He never flirted with danger again, only allowing a maximum of one baserunner per inning for the rest of the game. Duffy was brutally efficient, striking out six, walking none, allowing no extra base hits, and only utilizing 98 pitches.
The Royals improve to 55-59, taking sole control over third place in the division. They've got a long way to go if they want to make a surprise run this year, but having one of the American League's best pitchers will go along way.
Stay gnar, Duff. Star gnar forever.