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True Gut Punch: Duffy outlasts Hamels, Royals lose 1-0 in the 9th

Do the Astros have voodoo control over the Rangers?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Kansas City Royals
Tip your cap to Danny Duffy, ‘cause no one else earned it
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

There may come a day when you read a recap about Danny Duffy’s brilliant game leading the Royals to victory, but it is not this day.

There may come a day when you read a recap lovingly built around Charles Portis’ classic Western, True Grit, in which the Lucky Ned Yost gang guts out a quality win against all odds, but it is not this day.

There may come a day when the Royals manage a #$^%@ win against the #$^%@ Rangers, BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY.

This day, we watched Danny Duffy pitch brilliantly into the 9th, only to lose on two bloop hits enclosing a sacrifice bunt, the baseball equivalent of being served a Spam Sandwich on Wonderbread after watching the chef prepare an 8-course meal for the obnoxious table across the room. Duffy finished with 8.1 IP, 5H, 1ER, 0BB, 4K, a performance that was great fun to watch until, suddenly and terribly, it wasn’t.

Cole Hamels was equally dominant, going 7.2 IP, 4H, 0R, 1BB, 5SO while trying to single-handedly bring back 1980s facial hair. His only real challenge of the night came in the third inning, leading off with an Escobar walk and Moss single. These two unlikely outcomes should have been a sign of Fate’s cruel plans for Royals fans this night, but after Gordon and Merrifield flied out, Bonifacio singled to load the bases with two outs. Cain stepped in, then grounded weakly into a force play at second. I can’t summarize this play better than Charles Portis: “You are a pearl of great price to me, but there are times when you are an almighty trial to those who love you.”

Before the ninth, the Rangers’ biggest threat came in the second, when Mike Napoli hit an improbable leadoff triple off the right-field railing that poinked back over a startled Bonifacio’s head, allowing Napoli to chug around to third. Duffy defused the near-bomb with a ground-out and two popouts, along with some respect for Alex Gordon’s arm that held Napoli at his base.

In the fifth, Gomez reached on a coulda-been error when his pop into shallow right wasn’t caught cleanly by a sprinting Merrifield, but Duffy promptly picked off the runner with a cool no-step throw.

The game cruised right along on the backs of two dominant pitchers. Hamels was eventually pulled in the 8th when Whit the Hit drove a changeup to the left-center wall for a two-out double, but Jose Leclerc struck out Bonifacio on a weak checked swing to end the chance.

Then the ninth happened, the sort of half-inning in which no one quite does anything wrong but everything goes wrong anyway. Lucroy dinked a ball into right field and was replaced by pinch runner Joey Gallo. Delino DeShields, responsible for the Rangers’ winning hit in the 13th inning way back in the April 20th game that started a 9-game losing streak, sacrifice-bunted Gallo to second. Shin-Soo Choo then blooped a ball along the left-field line that scored Gallo easily. Duffy was pulled for Herrerra after 91 pitches; two strikeouts later the Royals still had a chance with the meat of the order coming up in the bottom of the ninth.

Hope remained while the company stayed true; Cain took a 4-pitch leadoff walk from Leclerc, triggering the latter’s replacement by Alex Claudio. With Cain poised eagerly at first, Hosmer ran up a 3-0 count before watching two strikes and flailing at a low outside strike. Hosmer had a pathetic night and I’ll let Portis have one more word about Rangers pitchers vs. him “What have you done when you have bested a fool?” Up came Perez with one out, and I still felt hope.

Double play. Game over. Season? Who knows. That’s 11 straight losses to the Rangers, a team record back under .500, and a maddeningly uncertain future looming in the next few weeks.

One other note: the Fox broadcast crew of Ryan Lefebvre and C.J. Nitkowski was quite enjoyable. Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler? “I don't think about you at all when your mouth is closed.”

The Royals will try to avoid a sweep tomorrow against Rangers ace Yu Darvish. They’re going to need every ounce of grit they can muster. Me, I produced more than enough grinding my teeth tonight.