Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
It was yet another rough night at the ballpark for the Royals offense, as they were shut out by Hisashi Iwakuma and the Seattle Mariners in a series-opening loss, 1-0. Iwakuma was brilliant, pitching 8 innings, allowing just 4 hits, striking out 7, and walking 0. Fernando Rodney came in for the 9th, and pitched around a bit of trouble to notch the save.
Rodney started off his inning by issuing a 4-pitch walk to Alcides Escobar, and then threw another ball to Nori Aoki. Instead of making Rodney throw a strike first, Aoki dropped down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner. Eric Hosmer followed that up with a walk of his own, but Billy Butler struck out swinging, and Salvador Perez ended the game on a fielder’s choice to shortstop.
That inning was basically the team’s only scoring opportunity all night. Hosmer collected a pair of singles, and Aoki and Alex Gordon had the other two, but the Royals mostly seemed helpless at the plate against Iwakuma’s sinking stuff. He was fooling hitters with a very good slider and splitter all night, and when batters made contact, it was generally on the ground. All in all, just a terribly disappointing offensive showing.
The lack of scoring put a damper on what was a terrific start from Danny Duffy, who bounced back from a 4-pitch walk to leadoff the first inning to pitch 6 strong innings, allowing only 2 hits, while striking out 4, and walking 3. One of those walks was intentional, which was yet another questionable decision from Ned Yost.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Mike Zunino doubled to leadoff the inning, and advanced to third after a sac bunt. Following a strikeout, Robinson Cano came to the plate to face the left-handed Duffy, with right-handed slugger Corey Hart on deck. Yost opted to put Cano on base, and sure enough, Hart singled to center to drive in what turned out to be the only run of the night.
Beyond that inning, Duffy was terrific. He was more efficient than he had been previously, and he only issued the two unintentional walks to go with one hit batter. Obviously you’d like to see a few more strikeouts from him, and you’d like to see a few shorter plate appearances, but this version of Duffy appeared to be much sharper, and he showed why the Royals are so high on him. When his stuff is working, he’s very difficult to hit. It did look like he struggled with his release point a bit, partially due to an inconsistent landing spot, but again, there are signs of improvement.
Notes: Kelvin Herrera relieved Duffy in the 7th inning and pitched two perfect innings, and Butler looked rusty in his first full game back in the lineup, as he went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.