Four years ago, the Royals and Blue Jays were the perennial powers of the American League. Toronto, known for their power, terrorized opposing teams with a lineup of Josh Donaldson, José Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, and Russell Martin. Kansas City’s bullpen injected fear into those who came to bat from the seventh inning on. But in 2019, the only thing these two clubs are fighting for is position in next years’ draft. Entering Friday night, the Royals sported a record of 28-53, just one game back of the equally dismal Blue Jays. In the first contest north of the border, Kansas City wasted numerous scoring opportunities and failed to keep the ball in the yard, resulting in a 6-2 loss in game one.
Coming off an outing in which he allowed three runs in eight innings of work, Duffy looked to put together a start that wasn’t decided by one poor inning. Retiring seven of the first nine hitters and striking out four of them, the 30-year-old lefty exuded tons of confidence in the early going. But as dominant as Duffy proved to be, Toronto starter Sean Reid-Foley was equally as effective. Shutting down the Kansas City offense through the first four innings, the scoreless tie was finally snapped in the top half of the fifth.
After Reid-Foley retired the first two hitters in Cheslor Cuthbert and Humberto Arteaga to start the inning, Martín Maldonado halted his groove. Falling behind 2-0, Maldonado punished a belt-high fastball, sending into the first row of seats in left-center field. The solo shot marked the fourth of the year for the catcher. In the ensuing inning, Nicky Lopez ripped a one-out double down the first base line and scampered home on Alex Gordon’s second opposite field hit of the night, making it 2-0.
However, just as the Blue Jays looked lost offensively, a harmless fly-ball turned into a crucial moment. As Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was jammed on an inside fastball, the ball floated in between Gordon and Arteaga in shallow left. Assuming the other was camped under the ball, the two watched it drop in front of them, putting the lead-off man on. Just as things usually go, the next hitter in Lourdes Gurriel Jr. pummeled a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to tie the game.
Managing to put runners at second and third with one out in the top of the seventh, the Royals approached their best scoring opportunity on the night. Unfortunately, Billy Hamilton struck out on a meek swing and Lopez grounded out sharply with the bases loaded to end the inning. In the bottom half, Eric Sogard banged a go-ahead home run off Duffy with two outs, ending the left-handers’ night at 6 2⁄3 innings.
Trying to knot it back up at three, Gordon led-off the top of the eighth with a double into the right field corner. But Dozier, Soler, Cuthbert followed up with a trio of strikeouts. In the bottom half, Gurriel Jr. clubbed his second home run of the evening and Randal Grichuk added to the barrage with a two-run bomb himself. Going away without much noise in the ninth, the Royals wasted another “good enough” performance by Duffy. As the loss makes it 54 on the season, Kansas City will attempt to rebound tomorrow afternoon. Homer Bailey hopes to continue his positive trend as Toronto will hand the ball to their ace in Marcus Stroman. First pitch is scheduled for 3:07 CT.