In an afternoon game at Kauffman Stadium, the Seattle Mariners defeated the Kansas City Royals 4-2, thereby also locking up the series two games to one. Seattle upped their record to 6-4, and Kansas City fell to 3-7.
Going into this season, Danny Duffy was clearly the most important and best pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. Expectations were high; from 2016-2017, Duffy started 50 games and put up a nice 3.68 ERA and 3.74 FIP over those 308 innings. If the 2018 Royals were to succeed, they needed Duffy to be his best.
But going into this game, Duffy had been just plain bad in his previous two starts. In a mere 9.2 innings, Duffy’s ERA stood at 7.45 (his FIP at 6.93) and the Royals had lost both starts.
And in the first inning, Duffy did nothing to assuage the fears that something was wrong.
After Dee Gordon somehow singled on a ball way outside and Jean Segura popped out, Duffy’s command crashed and burned. Duffy proceeded to walk Robinson Cano, Mitch Haniger, and Guillermo Heredia. A Kyle Seager sac fly (with assistance from Cam Gallagher, who dropped a pop-up in foul territory) and a wild pitch during Heredia’s plate appearance gave the Mariners a quick 2-0 lead.
However, despite a bases loaded jam and control akin to a three-year-old driving Bowser on Rainbow Road in Mario Kart, those two runs would be the only runs scored by either team for a long time. As good pitchers tend to do, Duffy settled down, finding his control and weaponizing his changeup, which he utilized to notch four swing-and-miss strikeouts.
In the sixth inning, though, things started to fall apart for Duffy, as Cheslor Cuthbert tried to single-handedly sabotage Duffy’s rebound with a pair of defensive flubs, both of which were double play balls. On the first one, Cuthbert’s feed to Whit Merrifield was as wide off the mark as physically possible to still get the out at second base. On the second one, Cuthbert watched a grounder hit directly towards him bounce into his chest and carom away far enough that no outs could be had. Thankfully, the 22-year-old rookie reliever Brad Keller managed to coax a ground ball double play from Daniel Vogelbach, which ended the inning.
Duffy’s final line: 5.1 innings pitched, four hits, two runs allowed (one earned), three walks, seven strikeouts. It was an excellent bounce back from what could have been a disastrous first inning, but what turned out to be merely a nuisance for Duffy.
Unfortunately, Duffy could not secure the win because Mariners starter James Paxton was dealing. The fire-throwing lefty cruised through six complete innings, accruing ten strikeouts against only a single walk. Still, the Royals did manage six hits, and they converted a pair of baserunners into runs in the fourth inning on Paulo Orlando’s opposite-field double. When the sixth inning concluded with Keller protecting Duffy’s start, the game was tied 2-2.
Keller pitched a clean seventh inning, but the Royals’ hard work was undone by Justin Grimm, who coughed up two runs in the eighth inning. Both runs came hot off the bat of Seager for his second home run of the season. The Royals had a chance to take the lead in bottom half of the frame, as a Merrifield walk and a Mike Moustakas single put runners on the corners with no outs. But Cuthbert, Lucas Duda, and Jorge Soler couldn’t bring either home. It was not a good day at the plate for that trio, who left a combined 13 batters on base after everything was said and done.
And that was it. Tim Hill pitched a scoreless top of the ninth for Kansas City, keeping the lead at two, but if you can’t score it doesn’t matter how big of a lead the other team has. Edwin Diaz, the 24-year-old closer with 55 career saves already, carved out his 56th save with ease. Orlando/Escobar/Gallagher is not exactly a murderer’s row of hitters, and with a bench of Abraham Almonte, Drew Butera, and Ryan Goins, ain’t no significant pinch hitting gonna happen. Ned Yost tried, though, pinch hitting Almonte for Gallagher. It didn’t work.
Kansas City will next host Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and the Los Angeles Angels for a four-game series from Thursday through Sunday.