After an opening series where every game was a high-octane scoring affair, the Kansas City Royals played a more traditional game of baseball against Clevelend. And thanks primarily to the efforts of Danny Duffy, who pitched six scoreless innings, and Whit Merrifield, who drove in all of Kansas City’s runs, the Royals pulled out a 3-0 victory in Cleveland’s home opener.
Duffy’s performance is notable for two reasons. First, and most recently in the minds of Royals fans, Duffy stabilized what has thus far been rather incompetent starting pitching. Brad Keller, Mike Minor, and Brady Singer had combined to give up 16 runs in only 10.2 innings on the year, and as a group had forced the bullpen to pick up an awful lot of slack. Duffy reversed that trend, tossing 97 pitches, striking out five, and only allowing two hits over six scoreless innings.
Secondly, but perhaps most importantly, Duffy avoided the late-inning pitfalls that he has been susceptible to as of late. In 2020, Duffy had a 1.09 ERA his first time through the batting order. But during the second and third times through, his ERA was 7.89 and 6.75, respectively. Duffy’s only true trouble came in the fourth inning, when Franmil Reyes doubled on the first pitch of his at bat and Duffy threw six consecutive balls to Amed Rosario and Josh Naylor. However, Naylor’s line drive ended up safely in the glove of Andrew Benintendi for the final out of the inning.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Royals were poised to score immediately against lefty starter Logan Allen. But after loading the bases with a Merrifield single and walks by Salvador Perez and Jorge Soler, Allen was able to strike out Michael A. Taylor to end the threat.
Throughout the afternoon, Kansas City continued to accrue baserunners. It first paid off in the second inning. Nicky Lopez singled—his first of three trips to first base on the day—and Allen got behind 3-0 to Merrifield. Not wanting to walk Merrifield and put two men on, Allen got a little too cute and threw one of the worst pitches we’ve seen so far this year: a mere 92 MPH fastball straight down the center of the plate. Merrifield sent it to the moon for a two-run blast.
In the seventh inning, Merrifield would drive in Kansas City’s other run on the day via a sacrifice fly that scored Ryan McBroom. But the Royals were not exactly efficient with their distribution of baserunners. Benintendi, Carlos Santana, and Taylor would combine to go 2-12 with a pair of walks, and left a combined 10 men on base.
This would pose to nearly being Kansas City’s undoing, as what should have been a much larger lead was not, and Cleveland was able to threaten in the ninth inning against reliever Jesse Hahn. Hahn wildly walked Reyes on seven pitches that were all over the place, and then surrendered a single to Jose Ramirez. Fortunately, Eddie Rosario hit into an unorthodox 3-6-1 double play thanks to some great first base defense by Santana, and Hahn was able to coax another ground ball out from Reyes to end the threat and the game.
Kansas City is now 3-1. The Royals will have (yet another) off day before playing Cleveland in the second of their two-game series on Wednesday.