Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy has been searching all season.
For a band-aid, a salve, a patch — anything to pull himself out of the worst stretch of his career.
The solution continued to evade him Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field, where the Royals lost to the Indians 11-2. In a series rubber match against the Indians, Duffy surrendered nine runs in 3 1/3 innings and watched from the center of the diamond as Jose Ramirez and Yan Gomes clubbed three-run home runs two innings apart.
Duffy has yielded four or more runs in four of his last five starts. The frustration has mounted. So much, in fact, that when he yanked on a jersey to speak briefly with reporters after the game, Duffy used the words "not good" or something resembling them eight times.
"I just haven’t been good. There’s no cure to this other than being good, and I haven’t been good," he said. "I wish I had another answer for you guys — I just haven’t been good."
Duffy had allowed more than seven runs in a game one time in his career entering Sunday. The 2011 Yankees drubbed him for eight runs and eight hits during Duffy’s rookie campaign.
Although he's thrown clunkers since, Duffy has never endured such an extended period of futility in his eight-year career. He's spent time on the disabled list for a number of injuries — he landed on it twice last year, once because of an oblique strain and another time because of an impingement in his left elbow — but he's mostly been effective. The 3.68 ERA Duffy amassed over 50 starts in 2016-17 ranked 21st out of 61 qualified starting pitchers.
Through the first month in any season he's been healthy — and Royals manager Ned Yost insists the left-handed pitcher is — Duffy has never encountered so much trouble.
After allowing six runs and facing 20 batters in three innings, Duffy sat on the visitors' dugout bench with his head in his hands and wondered where he has erred. The immediate answer on Sunday was trouble keeping his pitches down and the Indians taking advantage of the mistakes.
Beyond that, the quest is ongoing.
"Do I wanna say, ‘Yeah, I’ll fix this, I’ll be better?’" Duffy said. "Well, of course, and I believe that in my mind. There’s no lack of confidence. But I have not been good. ... My team deserves better than this."
Sunday’s outing caused Duffy's ERA to jump to 6.51 in 47 innings this season. Among qualified starters, the mark is one of the worst in the majors.
Duffy's latest misstep prolonged a recent trend. Entering Sunday, Royals starting pitchers had posted the highest ERA (6.66) in baseball in the last two weeks.
And now three of the last four to take the mound have logged nine-run outings.
The last time a Royals starter gave up nine runs, the offense built enough momentum to take Jason Hammel out of the decision and give the Royals a 10-9 win on Friday here.
Hammel praised his teammates then. He suggested the victory could help turn the Royals’ luck, give them a boost as they completed a six-game road trip with a series against the reigning American League Central Division leaders.
That never happened. The Royals scored two runs in a loss on Saturday and the damage they did Sunday barely marred the record of reigning AL Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber. Their two runs against the Indians starter were unearned — Jorge Soler reached base on an error to start the Royals’ short-lived attempt at a comeback in the sixth inning.
The Royals (13-27) return to Kauffman Stadium on Monday to start a three-game series against the Rays that begins at 6:05 p.m.
"There’s always concern when you go through a bit of an extended stretch but we just keep working," Yost said.