Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy on Saturday was no closer to figuring out what has turned his eighth season in the big leagues into the most disastrous campaign of his career.
In the Royals’ 8-3 loss to the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, he lasted just four innings and surrendered five runs on seven hits, including two home runs. Duffy’s ERA on the season climbed to 6.88, which is now the highest among qualified starters, according to Fangraphs.
Asked what’s gone wrong, Duffy offered a shake of the head and another verbal flogging of his recent performance.
"I’m tired of going out there and getting my ass kicked. I really am," Duffy said. "Every fifth day — it’s miserable. That being said, sometimes you’re just not special at something. And right now I’m not special at pitching.
"Well, what are you going to do about it? Are you gonna run from it or are you gonna do some phantom DL crap? No. I’m not gonna go on the DL. I feel great. Do they want to talk about the bullpen? I don’t know. It’s not my decision. I want to help this team."
Duffy, again, did the opposite: He stifled the morsel of momentum the Royals had built after Friday's 5-2 win over the best team in baseball.
Given a chance to erase from his mind the Yankees' early lead after Ryan Goins and Jorge Soler had RBI hits to tie Saturday's game 2-2 in the third, Duffy promptly put two runners on base for Gleyber Torres. Torres then smoked a three-run homer to the left-field porch to give the Yankees an advantage in the fourth inning.
For a second consecutive start, Duffy was removed before the fifth inning. He’s allowed four or more runs in five of his last six starts.
"I am pitching awful right now," he said. "I don’t know what else to say. I’m throwing 95, 96. I’m not trusting my heater. I'm leaving my change-up up. ... It’s horrible. It’s brutal. Talk is cheap. I’m terrible right now. It’s awful. I’m sick of this (stuff), man. It’s terrible."
Now that the Royals are a quarter of the way through the season, Duffy has fallen too far for the Royals to brush his struggles off. Manager Ned Yost admitted something will change but wouldn't divulge his plan.
"He's struggling right now. He's grasping," Yost said. "I've got full confidence that he's going to get through it, he's going to break through it.
"It's just we've got to kind of step back a little bit, simplify a little bit, and get back on track. Do I have an idea how to do that? Yeah, I think I do. I'll talk to Danny about it in the next day or so, and go from there."
How they almost stayed in the game: The Royals' Burch Smith yielded five hits, including Gary Sanchez’s solo home run in the seventh inning, and one run in two innings. When Clint Frazier drilled a two-out double into center field with a runner on first base, Jon Jay relayed the ball to second baseman Whit Merrifield, who in turn fired a throw to catcher Salvador Perez to retire Miguel Andujar as he slid into home plate. The play ended the inning.
Blaine Boyer later surrendered back-to-back homers to Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton in the ninth inning, putting the game out of reach for the Royals' offense, which was 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
A failed challenge: Mike Moustakas shrunk the Royals’ deficit to 5-3 with a two-out RBI single in the fifth inning. Perez followed up with a double to left field that was hit deep enough to give Moustakas a chance to score from first base.
But after the relay to Sanchez at home plate, umpire Jim Wolf ruled that Moustakas did not beat the tag on the bang-bang play.
The Royals challenged the call, but the decision on the field stood.
Royals replay coordinator Bill Duplissea has lost two consecutive challenges since starting the season 11 for 11.
Roster moves: The Royals placed Cheslor Cuthbert, who last played Monday, on the disabled list because of a low back strain. They recalled infielder Ramon Torres from Class AAA Omaha.
Up next: The Royals, who fell to 14-31, send rookie Eric Skoglund to the mound for Sunday's rubber match which is scheduled to begin at 1:15 p.m.