After nine straight games of scoring three or fewer runs, the World Champion Kansas City Royals exploded for FOUR runs.
While Danny Duffy didn’t carry a no-hitter into the eighth while striking out 16, he was still fairly good. Against the vaunted Toronto Blue Jays offensive attack, the southpaw struck out six and walked two in 6.2 innings of work. His was a solid if unspectacular outing against the sixth-highest scoring offense in the game, an offense against whom he matched up particularly poorly as the bulk of their production comes from the right-handed side of the plate. More in damage control than domination mode, Duffy yielded two runs, the first a lead-off dong from Devon Travis - his third in two days while visiting lovely Kauffman Stadium.
The Travis dong put the Jays up 1-0. That is where the score stayed until the top of the fifth, when Kevin Pillar led off the frame with a double. Five pitches later, Duffy was an out away from escaping the jam when Devon Travis walked to the plate again. After battling to a full count, Travis drove in his second run of the game with a liner to right.
Down 2-0, the Royals finally got off the mat in the home half of the fifth. Alex Gordon got things started with a line-drive single to right off of Aaron Sanchez.
It should probably be said that Sanchez came into this start with a record of 11-1. Pitcher wins and losses may be relatively irrelevant, but when a starting pitcher is 21 starts into his season with just one loss to his credit (that loss coming in April, a loss so long ago that it happened when the Royals still looked like legitimate contenders), he has clearly been pitching well. Prior to this inning, the Royals had managed just two hits, back-to-back one-out singles from Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer in the fourth. They both got into scoring position when Hosmer stole second to eliminate the double play but were stranded as the impotent Royals offense looked likely to flounder once again.
So when Gordon singled to kick off the fifth, there was hope, but it was tempered by the recent trauma of nine straight games of paltry offense. Gordon advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Paulo Orlando followed up with an infield single to short, putting two aboard. Raul Mondesi Jr. laid down a bunt for an infield single - this just in: Mondesi can really fly - but with the Royals offense still in want of an extra-base hit, it felt like loading the bases with no outs may still fail to produce the mythical “run” that recently born Royals fans have heard about mostly in bedtime stories and fairy tales.
The free-swinging Alcides Escobar stepped to the plate and promptly ripped a ball to third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson batted the ball down with his glove, but as seems to happen so often to the third baseman while playing the Royals, he was unable to make a play on the ball. Gordon raced home, Orlando and Mondesi moved up a station, and Escobar took his place at first base. Cheslor Cuthbert lined out to second, and Lorenzo Cain worked the count full before grounding into a forceout, Donaldson to Russell Martin at home. Validating the concern of the 2016 Royals fan, it looked as though loading the bases with no outs twice would yield but a solitary run.
Then the Son of God stepped to the plate. It hasn’t been Eric Hosmer’s August. Or July. Or really even his June. But Eric Hosmer stroked a single to center, sending the ball all the way there in the air - oh, it’s possible, children - and two more Royals raced home.
Kendrys Morales grounded out to first to end the inning, but Danny Duffy and the Royals headed back onto the field to start the sixth sporting a 3-2 lead. Duffy worked around a one-out Edwin Encarnacion walk to get through the sixth unharmed, and the Royals took their turn at the plate again.
Salvador Perez grounded out to short, Alex Gordon struck out, and it looked like the Royals may head back to the top of the seventh with Duffy approaching 100 pitches protecting just a one-run lead. Then Paulo Orlando struck with another sharp grounder that never left the infield but was nevertheless a single. With Mondesi at the plate, Orlando executed a delayed steal that was equal parts maddening (better coverage at the bag gets him) and successful. Mondesi then ripped a liner down the line, keeping it just fair and sending it into the corner. It has been established that he can fly. The Royals’ rookie did just that, racing to third without a throw. Mondesi was stranded at third, but the Royals had scored a fourth run for the first time since July 27, three days before Donald Trump to the lead in national polls and a whole five days before it looked as though his campaign had careened into the ravine.
Duffy recorded two outs in the seventh, but with his pitch count at 101 and Kevin Pillar standing at second after beating out an infield single (granted upon a challenge) and subsequently stealing second, Ned Yost fingered the Aussie to get them out of the inning. Peter Moylan finished the seventh, and then pitched a clean eighth, striking out three of the four Jays he faced. After an uneventful bottom of the eighth, Kelvin Herrera closed the Jays out to add another tally to the Royals’ disappointing win-column.
The long national nightmare was over. The Royals finally scored a whopping four runs.
At least there’s Danny Duffy Day.