Royals bullpen, dormant offense spoil Danny Duffy's start in narrow loss to Twins

Kansas City Royals pitcher Danny Duffy throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, July 9, 2018, in Minneapolis.
Kansas City Royals pitcher Danny Duffy throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, July 9, 2018, in Minneapolis. AP

Not even a scoreless performance from starting pitcher Danny Duffy could end the Royals’ losing streak.

Visiting Target Field for the first time this season, the Royals lost to the Twins 3-1 on Monday night and for the second time this season dropped a 10th consecutive contest.

Royals rookie side-winder Tim Hill relinquished his team’s tenuous one-run lead in the seventh. Called on to relieve Duffy with two left-handed hitters due up in the Twins order, Hill surrendered a leadoff double to catcher Bobby Wilson. Joe Mauer followed with a soft single to right field that allowed Wilson to reach third.

Then left fielder Eddie Rosario, the lefty-hitting final vote candidate for whom the Twins have mounted a “Will you accept this Rosie?” campaign inspired by ABC’s The Bachelor, tapped a soft ground ball to the left of the mound. Third baseman Mike Moustakas charged it, but Wilson broke from third on contact. All Moustakas could do safely was throw Rosario out.

Reliever Kevin McCarthy was next out to keep the game at bay, but Mauer scored the Twins’ game-winning run on Eduardo Escobar’s sharp single.

"We didn’t score enough runs," manager Ned Yost said. "That’s disappointing. Danny threw great, bullpen kept us in the game, two runs, we lost by two runs. We score more runs, get a little more leeway, it’d be easier on the bullpen. Right now they’re just walking a thin line, can’t make a mistake."

Kansas City Royals' shortstop Adalberto Mondesi delivered two hits during Sunday's July 8, 2018 baseball game against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox won the game, 7-4.

The bullpen squandered an overwrought yet productive outing from Duffy, who struck out nine and yielded six hits. The left-hander wasn’t efficient with his pitch count, as he threw 76 in the first four innings and departed after the sixth with 109 counted in the box score. But his start provided optimism.

Three times, Duffy got himself into trouble. Three times, Duffy got himself out of it. He struck out the side in in the first inning despite loading the bases. Given a 1-0 lead on Alcides Escobar's RBI double in the third, Duffy pitched around a passed ball that put runners in scoring position with two outs, getting Robbie Grossman to loft a fly ball to right field for an out. And when Brian Dozier and Escobar stood on the corners with two outs in the fifth, Duffy fooled Grossman into rolling over a changeup for a ground-ball out.

Duffy’s ERA, which for most of May was the worst among all major-league starters, dropped back below the 5.00-mark for just the third time this season. It had jumped to 5.19 after he allowed six earned runs, four of them on one swing by the Indians’ Yan Gomes, in his last outing on July 3.

"I thought (last start was a blip). I think I’ve figured out quite a bit over the last two starts," Duffy said.

Yet as the Royals’ record fell to 25-65, Duffy’s progress made no difference. The Royals' offense still scuffled, scattering six hits in seven innings against Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios and just one more the rest of the way.

The Royals have lost 28 of 32. They haven't won a series since they took two of three from the Twins at Kauffman Stadium to close out the month of May.

For the sixth straight season, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez was selected to participate in the All-Star game on July 17, 2018 at Nationals Park. Perez was selected as a reserve player for the American League roster.

First ejection of the season: Yost was thrown out in the fourth inning for arguing with home plate umpire Will Little on Lucas Duda's behalf. Duda exchanged words with Little on his way out of the box after being called out on strikes on a high fastball. Yost, upset by Little's reaction to criticism, barked from the dugout before being tossed.

"I don’t mind if you’re gonna miss a pitch," Yost said. "He obviously missed the pitch. It was obvious with my eye and then it was obvious when I looked at replay. OK, if you miss strike one. But strike three to end the at-bat when he’s working the at-bat and he’s working hard? Yeah of course I’m gonna be upset.

"I yell at him just to get his act together and he looked at me and he shrugged his shoulders. What does that mean? Does that mean you don’t care? Is that what it means? So that’s what set me off. I’ve got my player working out there and you’re gonna shrug your shoulders at me? You’re missing a call, a crucial call? I didn’t like it. I don’t know what they’re doing."

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