After a tough start to the homestand, the Royals got to face Justin Verlander.
Nothing like giving up 32 runs in your first three games at home, then facing last year’s Cy Young winner and MVP.
The results aren’t surprising, as Verlander held the Royals to two runs in a complete game win. The Royals scored on him in the first inning to even the score after Austin Jackson had led off with a homer for the Tigers and the Royals didn’t score again until the ninth inning.
The disappointing 3-2 loss was punctuated by a called third strike with the bases loaded and Alex Gordon at the plate. After Billy Butler ripped a single to left to lead off the inning, Jason Bourgeois pinch ran and moved to third after two groundouts. He scored on a shot to right by Humberto Quintero, then Verlander walked Mitch Maier and hit Alcides Escobar to load the bases for Gordon.
The strikeout was Gordon’s third of the game and second looking. Verlander struck out nine Royals. It took 131 pitches for him to get past the Royals.
The loss spoiled a good start from Danny Duffy, who went 6.2 innings on 105 pitches. For the second straight start, he struck out more batters than innings pitched. Against Oakland, he struck out eight in six innings and struck out seven tonight. Even better, he walked just one, though he made a couple of mistakes, getting the ball up on Jackson on his leadoff homer and later to Brandon Inge who homered to center. Jhonny Peralta had three solid hits against him too, but the rest of the lineup didn’t hit him very well. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder went a combined 0-5 against Duffy.
One of Duffy’s goals this year was to get deeper into games. He made it through six innings on 103 pitches in his first start and through 6.2 in 106 pitches tonight. The Tigers fouled off numerous pitches against him, prolonging counts and adding to his pitch counts. Duffy had strong stuff late into the start, and his fastball was missing bats, while his curveball improved as the game went on.
Fun fact: by my count, the Royals fouled off five pitches with two strikes off of Verlander. The Tigers, by comparison, fouled off 12 pitches with two strikes against Duffy. My gut suggests that that is a testament to Verlander’s dominance (and he was the best pitcher in the game last year, so it’s not really embarrassing) and the Tigers patience.
Interestingly enough, the only Tiger to reach base after fouling off those pitches was Jhonny Peralta who doubled twice with two strikes after fighting off pitches. Alex Avila was the only other batter to get a hit with two strikes off of Duffy and that was the last batter he faced.
Yeah, this loss is disappointing, but Duffy did what he needed to do. He came out and gave the team quality innings and left the bullpen mostly untouched. After a series where the Royals had to bring Mitch Maier in and call up Louis Coleman to be their eighth reliever, that day off for most of the staff could get the team balanced out. He went pitch for pitch with Verlander and if not for a couple of mistakes could have had a shot at a win.
That, if nothing else, is encouraging.