KC Royals: Danny Duffy not quite good enough again

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Their veteran starter pitched well for the KC Royals Wednesday night. Unfortunately, mistakes prevented him from notching his first win of the young season.

For the better part of five innings of work in empty Comerica Park Wednesday night, KC Royals’ starter Danny Duffy convincingly demonstrated why he’s pitching on a $65 million contract. He methodically and easily dominated the Tigers through four, defying them with mostly fastballs and some serviceable off-speed and breaking stuff.

Only three mistakes, two of his own making, caused Duffy to leave with his team in the game for the second straight time. He departed down 2-0 to Cleveland last Friday, then tied 4-4 with Detroit Wednesday; the Tigers won 5-4 Wednesday via the solo home run Ian Kennedy surrendered to Jacoby Jones in the seventh.

Duffy’s first mistake came in Detroit’s third when, leading 4-0, he hit leadoff hitter Grayson Greiner, who moved to third on JaCoby Jones’ double and scored the Tigers’ first run on Jonathan Schoop’s sacrifice fly.

It was the second apparent mistake that helped pave the way for the Tigers’ three fifth-inning, game-tying runs that ruined Duffy’s chance for his first win. Franchy Cordero, assigned to left field on what would have been a night off for Alex Gordon had he not pinch-hit in the ninth, seemed to misjudge a hop of what should have been a Jones single; the ball escaped Cordero, allowing Jones to take second and Jose Reyes to get to third. Reyes then scored on Niko Goodrum’s sac fly.

The Tigers didn’t have to wait long to take advantage of Duffy’s other mistake– Schoop followed Goodrum with a homer to right that barely evaded Whit Merrifield’s leap and evened the score.

Otherwise, Duffy was good. He threw strikes consistently–54 of 75 pitches, to be precise, accounting for eight strikeouts–and gave up just three hits. His command and confidence appeared at their best. That made the bulk of his first two starts good–he pitched decently in 4.1 innings against Cleveland last week, giving up three hits, no walks and striking out two before leaving down 2-0, the eventual final score.

But more than the Cleveland game, Wednesday’s effort against the Tigers was the kind of performance the KC Royals need far more often from Duffy, who is more important to them now than in recent memory. He is, at least for the moment, the anchor of a rotation rendered dangerously thin by the COVID-19-driven absences of Brad Keller and Jakob Junis and Mike Montgomery’s recent injury. Duffy can’t pitch poorly if KC is to make an unlikely run at the postseason.

Stellar pitching is also the key to Duffy staying in Kansas City, a long-held ambition he’s made no secret of. He’s signed through 2021, but the business of baseball is such that the KC Royals may try to move him if he’s not performing.

And he must pitch well if the Royals’ future plans don’t include him. Despite the one-year remaining on his deal after this season, the club may prefer to go all-in next year with the likes of Brady Singer, who’s in the rotation now, and Player Pool members Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar or Daniel Tillo. If that happens, Duffy could become attractive to other clubs on the heels of a good 2020 campaign, or at this season’s August 31 trade deadline, but only if he’s impressing.

Everyone knows this is probably the most important campaign of Duffy’s career. So far, he’s pitched fairly well. Whether that continues, and Duffy regains his role as Royal ace, remains to be seen.

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Danny Duffy was good most of the time for the Royals Wednesday night. The club needs him to be a bit better.