Duffy stays gnar, but the bats go silent and Cleveland puts the finishing touches on a four-game sweep.
After the bullpen coughed up a four-run lead on Wednesday and a three-run lead on Tuesday, the offense just decided it wasn’t going to be worth the trouble. Ehhh…that’s not exactly fair. The bats attempted to rally. It just never really got far enough where they, you know, scored a run. A run really would’ve helped.
The Royals put the leadoff runner on in four of the first six innings and six times overall. With nothing to show for it. Zip. Zilch. In the fourth, sixth and ninth innings they put their first two batters on. And nothing. Keep the line moving? The conveyer belt jerked forward, sputtered and then snapped. The Royals couldn’t get anything going when the situation presented itself.
The result was Cleveland was able to complete a four-game sweep, their first ever in Kansas City against the Royals. (The fact we witnessed history probably doesn’t ease the pain.) When the series started, the Royals were atop the Central, three games ahead of Cleveland. Today, the Royals are in third place, a game behind.
May, it seems, is the new April.
OMG, really? Deep breath.
It is a five-game losing streak, but if I’m writing that this Royals team felt different in April, I can’t exactly abandon ship after a bad week in May. Yes, the timing is poor, but these are still early days. Usually, by this point, the Royals are buried and you’re creating depth charts that include fourth string tight ends for Chiefs minicamp. While an overworked bullpen and overwhelmed infield defense have contributed to the current malaise, what we saw in the season’s first month should tip the scales a little more toward optimism than despair.
The run differential in April indicated that perhaps the Royals were punching above their weight, so maybe they were lucky that they weren’t playing .500 baseball. But if .500 is where this team ends up when the dust settles in September, isn’t that still a successful season? I don’t know…now that we’re a month-plus into the season, it feels foolish to project all the way to the end. Besides, the expectations were ratcheted up with a strong April so maybe we want to recalibrate. But there are still issues with this team that, while not fatal, will most likely be around for most of the year. It’s a long season. There will be peaks and there will be valleys. And you know where this team is sitting at this exact moment.
While this is an important stretch where the Royals are playing within the division, we’re not even 20 percent of the way through the season. There’s a long way to go.
At least Duffy stays gnar
I was going to write something like this was Danny Duffy 2.0 or something, but that would be cliché and simply inaccurate to boot. This isn’t the second incarnation of Duffy. I’ve lost track of how many Duffy’s we’ve seen. The dude is a pitching chameleon.
Through all the changes, adjustments and reinventions, this Duffy may be the best version yet. On Thursday he scuffled, allowing baserunners in five of the six frames he worked. And those baserunners created almost instant high-leverage situations which meant a lot of high-stress pitches were thrown. A leadoff double in the first. Another leadoff double in the second. Three consecutive two-out singles in the fifth. A leadoff walk in the sixth. It wasn’t easy out there. Yet Duffy always seemed to be in control. Steady. Centered. A pitcher with a plan. Unwavering in his commitment to getting himself out of jams. It didn’t always work to perfection, but given the high-stress workload, it was still a damn successful outing.
The fastball was electric. Duffy was throwing the heat at 93.6 mph. It continues his fastball renaissance. We’ve known he can bring the heat, but we’ve seen it in short bursts over the last couple of years. Nothing sustained and nothing this…hot. This is one of the more surprising developments of the young season.
Even more impressive was that Duffy was able to hold that velocity for most of the game. He also kept enough in the tank that he could dip into the reserves as the game progressed and he needed a pitch with a little more fire behind it. He gassed one up as high as 96 mph in the sixth inning.
Duffy was particularly pleased with his offspeed pitches, noting the weak contact that was made. Three balls were put in play off the change at an average exit velocity of 83 mph. The lone curve that was hit had an exit velo of 80 mph. But as seemed to be the theme on Thursday, weak contact didn’t mean Cleveland wasn’t finding success.
Death by 1,000 paper cuts
The run-scoring hits off Duffy in the second and fifth innings were off of good pitches.
After a Harold Ramirez leadoff double in the second, Duffy had Amed Rosario down 0-1 and brought 95 mph inside. Rosario fought it off and dropped a looper down the left field line for the first run of the game.
In the fifth, after back-to-back two-out singles, Duffy jumped ahead of Jordan Luplow 1-2. He broke off a slider down and slightly in. Luplow put a swing on it and knocked it into left for the second run for Cleveland.
Both pitches were well located given the situation. Sometimes major league hitters can have success against good stuff in tough locations.
The Rosario triple in the sixth that chased Duffy from the game was a change where Perez set up low. Immediately after the game, Duffy said he felt like he located the pitch well. “I felt like I put it where I wanted to. If I wanted everything I ever dreamed of, it would’ve been down and away a little bit further. But it was away. He just kind of went and got it.”
I bet once Duffy looked at the video he realized for certain it would’ve been better located either lower or further toward the edge of the dish.
But truthfully, it wasn’t that poorly located against Rosario in particular. Against lefties this year, Rosario swings at a pitch in that location over 50 percent of the time. If he’s making contact in that location, he’s usually putting balls on the ground. According to Statcast, the pitch was located in Zone 8. That’s the area in the middle of the plate, low in the zone where Rosario’s average launch angle is -11 degrees.
In this instance, Rosario was able to drop the barrel underneath the pitch and flip it into the gap in left-center. Again, not a bad pitch at all in the situation. Could it have been better? As Duffy himself said, absolutely. But as he also said, sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
Duffy exited after surrendering three runs in 5.2 innings on 107 pitches. It was the fifth consecutive game where a Royals starter couldn’t complete six.
But while Duffy lamented the fact he had difficulty putting hitters away in two-strike counts, he has continued to excel in this young season. His final line score from this game won’t dazzle, but he battled all afternoon. He put himself in difficult spots and generally made the high-leverage pitches he needed to in order to escape. It wasn’t easy out there, but Duffy never seemed to waver. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go your way.
Summing up the series
It wasn’t very fun.
What did Ángel Hernández do now?
Final thoughts from Duffy
“Regardless of the score, you never feel like you’re out of it with this team. We do a pretty good job of keeping everybody up in the dugout, keeping everybody going and bringing that energy. We just gotta continue that, keep reaching for another gear. I feel like it’s in there. Just gotta nip it in the bud; stop this losing streak tomorrow. We’ll come back out here tomorrow, dust ourselves off and bring it.”
Tigers 9, Red Sox 12
Former Royal Franchy Cordero has had a miserable start to his 2021 season. He got a late jump after testing positive for Covid in spring training and has yet to find any kind of groove. He was mired in an 0-25 slump entering Thursday and was hitting .153 with a .393 OPS. He was supposed to have a day off, but an early injury to Kiké Hernández pushed him off the bench and onto the field where he enjoyed his best day of the year. He went 3-5 with ha double and three runs scored. He also made a stellar defensive play in left.
The Tigers are the only team yet to reach double-digits in the win column.
Rangers 4, Twins 3 — 10 innings
Remember the other day when I wrote about how the Twins were 11-7 in nine inning games and 0-10 in seven-inning doubleheaders and extra-inning affairs? Well, make that 0-11.
The Rangers tied the game in the seventh on a Jonah Heim home run and broke the deadlock in the top of the 10th when Willie Calhoun laced a single off Tyler Duffey.
Oh, and Byron Buxton left the game with a hip strain.
The second-place Chicago White Sox come to Kansas City for a weekend series. Brad Keller starts against Carlos Rodón. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10.
Good work as always Craig! I have to respectfully disagree with you regarding Duffy though. Was he hit hard? No he wasn't, but at the end of the day 5 2/3 and 3 earned runs is still a 5 plus ERA. Another negative is with an overworked bullpen it would have been a small victory for the team if he could have gotten 7 innings. At the end of the day, if this was a bad start from Duffy I'll take it, guess I'm just showing my age when I don't excited about less than 6 innings and 3 runs allowed. I'm trying to put things in perspective and say if you would have told me we would be 16-14 after 30 games I would have been ecstatic!