The 2016 Kansas City Royals squad fizzled out like a can of Pepsi left out in the sun too long, but it brought one of the better non-World Series developments of the modern Royals: the emergence of Danny Duffy as a very good starter. Tonight, Duffy truly dominated for the first time this year, twirling seven shutout innings, striking out ten New York Yankees and only allowing five baserunners. That sparkling performance powered the Royals to their seventh win in ten games, a 5-1 victory over New York that avoided a sweep.
In the previous two games in this series, the Yankees just smoked the Royals in every facet of the game, from starting pitching to relief to offense. Tonight, after Duffy struck out the side in the first and accrued two more in the second, the Royals offense showed quick life. Eric Hosmer led off the second inning with a walk, and Jorge Bonifacio followed with another after Salvador Perez flied out. Though Jorge Soler poked a routine ground ball double play to third base, Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro’s throw to first base resulted in an awkward hop that Chris Carter couldn’t corral. Kansas City punished the defensive misplay immediately, as successive RBI singles by Whit Merrifield and Drew Butera made it 2-0 Royals.
Kansas City struck again in the fifth. After Merrifield clocked his second hit of the game and Alcides Escobar walked (yes, you did read that last phrase correctly), Mike Moustakas smoked his 10th home run on a beautiful arcing fly ball to right field to make it 5-0, Royals. Moustakas is on pace for about 40 home runs this year, and if he did so he would be the first Royal in franchise history to do so.
Meanwhile, Duffy was dealing straight fire. He walked a pair and allowed three hits, all singles, and was only in true danger once. In the fourth inning, the Yankees had two men on base with one out, but Duffy defused the threat with a pair of strikeouts. Duffy notched ten Ks in the game, a strong performance that lowered his 2017 ERA to 2.97 and boosted his K/9 to 7.02. Duffy has struck out ten or more in a game four times, all of which have come over the past two seasons.
Royals manager Ned Yost brought in Kelvin Herrera in the top of the ninth inning to get the underutilized closer some work in a non-save situation, and Herrera did his best to make a 5-0 game interesting. Castro doubled immediately (on a ball that Alex Gordon probably would have caught if he were playing left field, granted), followed quickly by an Aaron Judge infield single. Didi Gregorius shot a ground ball through the left side of the infield to put the Yankees on the board, but Herrera was able to pick up two strikeouts and a fly out to hold the Yankees’ offensive surge to a mere moral victory. Bonifacio caught the final out and the game ended with a 5-1 score just as area storms threatened and began to move in throughout the Kansas City metro.
Tomorrow, the Royals travel to Minnesota in search of their first victory of the year against the Twins. Kansas City will seek to improve its 17-23 record and gain some ground on the surprise American League Central leaders.