Royals

Danny Duffy turns in longest career outing in Royals’ 4-1 victory over White Sox

Danny Duffy delivered one of his finest starts as a Royal, and the longest outing of his career, as Kansas City toppled the White Sox and their ace Chris Sale in a 4-1 victory Sunday in Chicago. Duffy kept Chicago scoreless until the ninth inning, when he gave up a solo homer to rookie infielder Tyler Saladino.
Danny Duffy delivered one of his finest starts as a Royal, and the longest outing of his career, as Kansas City toppled the White Sox and their ace Chris Sale in a 4-1 victory Sunday in Chicago. Duffy kept Chicago scoreless until the ninth inning, when he gave up a solo homer to rookie infielder Tyler Saladino. The Associated Press

The bullpen mounds rested unoccupied in right field Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field, a testament to the exhaustion of the Kansas City relief corps and the team’s renewed faith in Danny Duffy. He was about to record a minor bit of history.

It was the bottom of the eighth inning of a 4-1 victory over the White Sox when a slider sliced downward past stationary Chicago catcher Tyler Flowers. The strikeout set a milestone in Duffy’s career, the first out he ever collected in the eighth as a starter. He had spent five seasons chasing this moment.

“That elusive eighth-inning out?” Duffy said with a relentless smile. “Dude, I was at 7 1/3 (innings), and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I’m at 7 1/3. That’s crazy.’ I was just happy to even get into the eighth, to be quite honest with you.”

On a day when the Royals stocked two fresh relievers in a bullpen that was worn out after 31 innings of baseball on Friday and Saturday, Duffy (4-4, 4.24 ERA) delivered the lengthiest outing of his career. He spun eight scoreless innings, and departed after giving up a solo homer in the ninth outing to rookie infielder Tyler Saladino.

The outing refreshed the bullpen and helped Kansas City, 55-35, capture three victories in four games against its division rival to start the second half of the season. The Royals roughed up White Sox ace Chris Sale with home runs by Lorenzo Cain and Paulo Orlando. Handed an early lead, Duffy muffled his opponents.

“We needed him to stand up today, big time,” manager Ned Yost said. “And he did. We didn’t have a bullpen. We needed Danny to go deep in the game.”

The Royals must trim a pitcher from their starting rotation this month. Duffy is one of the candidates. On Sunday, he made a convincing case for why he is one of the team’s best five options. In his five starts since leaving the disabled list last month, his ERA is 2.27.

Duffy netted only four strikeouts, but two came when he needed to defuse Chicago’s most pressing offensive in the sixth inning. He relied upon his flashy, nearly foolproof defense, a group led by Alcides Escobar’s series of highlights on Sunday.

“I was sitting there at the end of the game, trying to decide which was more impressive: Danny’s outing or our defense today,” Yost said. “It was a tough call.”

Back in May, after a trio of frightening performances, the team considered sending Duffy to the bullpen. Instead, he rested his sore left shoulder for more than a month. Upon his return, he resolved to trust his teammates, rather than attempt to shoulder the entire load across his shoulders.

Pitching coach Dave Eiland preaches the necessity of simplicity with Duffy. His left arm can unleash a 95-mph fastball, a useful change-up and a sweeping slider. The arsenal is enough. If Duffy maintains his delivery, Eiland reminds him, he can generate enough velocity, enough movement, enough deception to fool hitters. Duffy insists he is listening.

“I’m not trying to do too much anymore,” Duffy said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself earlier in the year to try to be that person, to fill that void. But I need to realize that I’ve got the best defense in the league behind us. All you really need to do is execute, and they’ll make the plays.”

The outcome on Sunday was instructive. Escobar created enough highlights for a defensive clinic. He ranged to his left. He ranged to his right. He flashed his arm strength. He showed off his hands, scooping a smashed grounder to start a double play. He displayed his range on a twisting, spinning throwing on a ball in the hole.

In the second, former Royal Melky Cabrera sliced a double. He cruised into second base and wrapped Escobar in a hug. Soon after, Escobar removed Cabrera from the field of play. When Cabrera tried to take third on a grounder to shortstop, Escobar pivoted and threw him out.

“When I make plays like that, sometimes I get so proud, like, ‘Wow, I made a really good play,’” Escobar said. “And then it’s like, ‘Wow, I made another one.’ For me, that’s nice, man. I’m going outside, enjoying my game and trying to make nice plays, like I did today.”

Both Escobar and Duffy were sure to praise first baseman Eric Hosmer, who remains a deft, nimble fielder around the bag. “He’s got a shovel for a glove,” Duffy said.

Hosmer also supplied some early offense. He came to the plate with runners at the corners and one out in the first. Sale challenged him a 97-mph fastball down the middle. Hosmer smoked an RBI single into center field.

“You know you’re only going to one pitch, maybe, to hit,” Hosmer said. “You’ve got to take full advantage of it.”

From there, the Royals could not gain any traction against Sale until Cain came to the plate in the sixth inning. Cain entered the game amid a torrid stretch. He hit .468 with three homers and six doubles in the first 12 games of July. He bashed the game-winning homer on Saturday. Now he faced Sale, an ace he can handle. Cain had hit .350 against Sale before Sunday.

Now Sale pumped a 94-mph fastball, low but over the plate. Cain crushed it over the stands in left-center field. Cain entered this season with 17 homers in his career. He has hit 10 in his last 80 games. “He’s carrying this team right now,” Hosmer said.

In the bottom of the sixth, the White Sox mounted their best threat against Duffy. Omar Infante bungled a grounder. Outfielder Adam Eaton hit a single. When Saladino bunted the runners over, a replay review overturned what would have been an error on Duffy throwing to first. So there were two runners in scoring position with one out, and Jose Abreu looming in the on-deck circle.

Abreu is Chicago’s most dangerous hitter. Duffy did not want to let him put the ball in play. He opened the at-bat with a series of pitches on the outside. Abreu fouled back a trio of inside sliders. With the count at 1-2, Duffy fired a 94-mph fastball high and toward the outer edge. Abreu waved through it.

Eight pitches later, Cabrera stared at a slider for the third out of the inning. If Yost possessed a full bullpen, he admitted later, he almost surely would have removed Duffy for a reliever midway through the sixth. Instead he watched Duffy persevere.

“It just shows you how powerful the mind is,” Yost said. “When you go out there and know that ‘Hey, I don’t have a bullpen today. I’ve got to get it done.’ And he did. He just took the team on his shoulders and said, ‘Come on.’”

There was no discussion between Duffy and the coaching staff before the ninth inning began. He bounded out of the dugout before someone could tell him his day was over.

The script did not follow a storybook. Duffy felt “pretty done out there” when he returned to the mound, he said. His warmup pitches soared toward the head of catcher Salvador Perez. He yielded the homer to Saladino on his fourth pitch of the inning.

The blast nixed the shutout bid and ushered Yost out of the dugout. He thanked Duffy for his effort, then the team.

“I’m finally starting to learn that when you have the best defense in the league behind you, all you’ve got to do is execute,” Duffy said. “That was a complete team effort today. I can’t say enough about my boys out there.”

Royals 4, White Sox 1

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Escobar ss

5

1

2

0

0

1

.294

Moustakas 3b

3

0

2

0

1

0

.297

Cain cf

4

1

1

1

0

0

.321

Hosmer 1b

4

0

3

1

0

0

.293

Morales dh

4

0

1

0

0

2

.281

Perez c

4

0

0

0

0

2

.253

Infante 2b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.232

Rios rf

4

1

2

0

0

0

.249

Orlando lf

4

1

1

2

0

1

.248

Totals

36

4

13

4

1

7

Chicago

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Eaton cf

3

0

1

0

1

0

.249

Saladino 3b

3

1

1

1

0

0

.308

Abreu dh

4

0

0

0

0

2

.286

Cabrera lf

4

0

2

0

0

2

.262

Garcia rf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.272

LaRoche 1b

3

0

1

0

0

0

.220

Ramirez ss

3

0

0

0

0

0

.224

Flowers c

3

0

0

0

0

2

.224

Sanchez 2b

3

0

1

0

0

0

.192

Totals

30

1

6

1

1

6

Kansas City

100

001

200

4

13

1

Chicago

000

000

001

1

6

0

E: D.Duffy (3). LOB: Kansas City 6, Chicago 4. 2B: Infante (18), Me.Cabrera (14). HR: L.Cain (10), off Sale; Orlando (4), off Sale; Saladino (1), off D.Duffy. RBIs: L.Cain (45), Hosmer (47), Orlando 2 (17), Saladino (2). SB: L.Cain (18). S: Saladino.

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 4 (S.Perez, A.Escobar, Hosmer 2); Chicago 4 (Al.Ramirez, Saladino, Me.Cabrera 2). RISP: Kansas City 1 for 9; Chicago 0 for 5. GIDP: L.Cain, S.Perez, Infante, Av.Garcia, Al.Ramirez. DP: Kansas City 2 (D.Duffy, Infante, Hosmer), (A.Escobar, Infante, Hosmer); Chicago 4 (Al.Ramirez, C.Sanchez, LaRoche), (Al.Ramirez, LaRoche), (Al.Ramirez, C.Sanchez, LaRoche), (M.Albers, LaRoche).

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

D.Duffy W, 4-4

8

6

1

1

1

4

113

4.24

Blanton S, 1

1

0

0

0

0

2

12

4.37

Chicago

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Sale L, 8-5

6.1

11

4

4

1

6

105

2.86

M.Albers

2.2

2

0

0

0

1

28

1.08

D.Duffy pitched to 1 batter in the 9th.

Inherited runners-scored: M.Albers 2-0. PB: Flowers.

Umpires: Home, Andy Fletcher; First, Jordan Baker; Second, Paul Emmel; Third, Jerry Meals. Time: 2:45. A: 32,175.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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