KC Royal baseball can be very exciting, even in a lackluster season. The Kansas City Royals put together one of the worst months in club history in July. Just one day into the new month, all that was forgotten, if only for a short while, as Danny Duffy flirted with history on the mound.
The stars aligned for Duffy heading into Monday’s series opener in Tampa Bay. Duffy was an exception to Kansas City’s July slump. He posted a 3-0 record in five starts last month, striking out 31 batters in 34 innings and maintaining a 3.18 ERA in July.
Duffy was almost as impressive in June with a 3-1 record and 3.25 ERA in six starts. He struck out 45 batters in just 36 innings of work. In his seven starts prior to Monday, Duffy held an impressive 4-0 record and 2.86 ERA with 44 strikeouts in as many innings of work.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, entered Monday’s game with 928 strikeouts – the fifth most in the league and just one behind Arizona. At 42-61, the Rays have the second-worst record in the American League in spite of a four-game win streak.
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Something good had to happen for the Royals, right?
Duffy was on from the start, striking out two in the first inning. He struck out the side in the second and added two more strikeouts in the third to continue his blistering pace. Logan Forsythe’s walk in the fourth inning remained Duffy’s lone mistake heading into the eighth inning. With a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh, Duffy upped his strikeout total to 14.
That’s when Duffy started making news. Fox Sports Kansas City’s Joel Goldberg began charting Duffy’s success. No Royal had struck out 13 batters since Luke Hochevar and Zach Greinke did it in 2009. Duffy later joined Greinke (15) and Mark Gubicza (14) as the only Kansas City pitchers in franchise history with at least 14 strikeouts in a game.
Goldberg was not alone in posting about Duffy. Heading into the eighth inning, Duffy was trending on Twitter with nearly 3,000 tweets about his ongoing performance. MLB Network picked up the game in the eighth inning as Duffy looked to become just the fourth Royal to throw a no-hitter (Steve Busby threw two no-hitters).
Unfortunately, the no-hitter was not to be. After a 20-minute top of the eighth, Desmond Jennings singled to left on Duffy’s 101st pitch of the night. As a small consolation, Duffy retired the next batter, then struck out Tim Beckham to tie Greinke for the club record with 15 strikeouts. Likely facing his final batter of the night, the 27-year-old Duffy struck out Nick Franklin to notch his 16th strikeout and set a new Royals record.
“He was just electric tonight,” said Royals Manager Ned Yost after the game. “He had everything going. Seven innings of no-hit baseball, eight innings, 16 punchouts, and one walk. It’s pretty special.”
Duffy said after the game that all his pitches were working. Even the one hit came on a good call from catcher Salvador Perez, Duffy just missed his location. How good were his pitches? ESPN’s Baseball Tonight reports that Duffy forced 35 swing and misses to tie Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw for the most missed in the last 15 seasons.
Duffy’s record-setting outing provided a shot of adrenaline for a Royals team and fan base that really needed it. Can Kansas City use his performance to build some momentum for the remainder of a pivotal month of August? Only if some of the other Royals pitchers can fall in line with Duffy and stop the bleeding.