Royals waste gem from Danny Duffy, lose 12th straight to the RangersJuly 17, 2017 6:01pm

July 16--This was not the way they wanted the second half of this baseball season to begin. A quiet Royals clubhouse. No music. Salvador Perez grabbing his belongings and making a beeline for the door. Danny Duffy standing on the side of the room, talking about a game in which he lasted 8 1/3 innings, allowed just one run and still wound up with an 'L' by his name.

This was the story of Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium, a wasted opportunity as a losing streak hit five games, a quiet night against Texas' Cole Hamels turning into a 12th straight loss against the Rangers.

The specifics of the Royals' 1-0 loss to the Rangers were particularly maddening. Duffy cruised through eight scoreless innings before two bloop singles -- sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt -- produced the game's first run in the top of the ninth.

In the moments after the loss, Duffy sought to put the inning in perspective, offering a preemptive vote of support to a lineup that couldn't score after nine innings.

"I mean, on paper, it looks like there were a couple of bloopers," Duffy said. "But there were a couple of really hard-hit balls that the team made great plays on. Obviously, the runs scored on those 130-foot hits, but there could have been so many more base runners today."

Texas designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo provided the decisive blow, tucking an RBI single just inside the left-field line.

In three starts since returning from the disabled list, Duffy has faced Seattle's Felix Hernandez, Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw and Texas' Hamels, who logged 7 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday. The Royals are 1-2 in those games, and the last two have come during a five-game skid that has left them 44-45 overall, under .500 for the first time since June 29.

By the end, Duffy had become the first Royals pitcher to pitch 8 1/3 innings, allow no more than one run and lose since Jose Lima on Aug. 14, 2005. The reason was Hamels, who struck out five, allowed four hits and improved to 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against the Royals since joining the Rangers.

"Individually and as a team, everybody kind of has their guy that it's just tough to get hits, tough to find runs on," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who lost his 16-game hitting streak. "He seems to be that guy for us. There's a good reason why. He's a pretty good pitcher."

But let's reset: Among the unwritten rules of baseball, tradition dictates that the starting pitcher controls the pregame music that emanates from the clubhouse stereo system. Every fifth day, Duffy takes this assignment more serious than most.

So it was that he strolled into the room here on Saturday afternoon, whistling the chorus to The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and preparing to cue up a play list that included a rather large sampling of reggae legend Bob Marley.

"I don't even know the words," Duffy said, talking across the room to reliever Scott Alexander. "That's why I whistle ... I just know 'Wouldn't it be nice.' "

Here was a snapshot into the pregame mood of Duffy, the laid-back, effervescent face of the Royals' starting rotation. Here was a left-hander who would transform from dominant to hard-luck loser on a warm evening at Kauffman Stadium.

Not that there weren't chances. The Royals had opportunities to score in the eighth and ninth innings. Whit Merrifield doubled to left-center against Hamels with two outs in the eighth. Lorenzo Cain led off the ninth with a walk. Neither turned fruitful.

In the ninth, the Rangers turned the game over to left-hander Alex Claudio, who struck out Hosmer and coaxed a double-play grounder from Salvador Perez.

For eight innings, Duffy and Hamels exchanged zeroes on the Crown Vision video board that sits high above center field. For most of the night, the opportunities for offense were minimal.

In the top of the second, Texas' Mike Napoli led off the inning with a triple that banged off the railing near the top of the wall in right field. Duffy stranded him at third, coaxing a ground ball with the infield in, a shallow fly to left field and foul pop to third base.

Duffy settled in, retiring 10 straight batters before Carlos Gomez singled on a blooper that bounced out of Merrifield's glove at second. Moments later, Duffy would pick off Gomez with a deceptive move, recording the 24th pickoff of his career.

Duffy required just 69 pitches to maneuver through six innings. After a seven-pitch seventh, his night turned even more efficient. The Rangers could not handle Duffy's biting slider. His fastball sat between 92 and 94 mph. His change-up produced awkward swings and quick outs. And yet, the game remained tied at 0-0 as the night pressed on.

Hamels worked around a leadoff walk to Alcides Escobar and a single from Brandon Moss in the bottom of the third. With nobody out, Escobar failed to tag up on a deep fly ball to left from Alex Gordon. Escobar said he drifted halfway to third to make sure he would score on a ball over the head of the left fielder. Royals manager Ned Yost deemed it a difficult read.

"It's a tough read because it's a line-drive hit," Yost said. "It's a lot easier if it's a lofting fly ball and you know you can look at it and determine that he's going to be deep enough to tag."

In the end, Escobar remained at second as Jorge Bonifacio singled off the glove of shortstop Elvis Andrus with two outs. Escobar moved up 90 feet. And Hamels stranded the bases loaded when Cain grounded to third base.

In the moment, it was the Royals' best opportunity to strike at Hamels. By the end, it ensured that Duffy would depart Saturday night with a loss.

"Two jam shots, you know," Yost said, replaying the ninth inning. "It's two jam shots."

Rustin Dodd: 816-234-4937, @rustindodd. Download True Blue, The Star's free Royals app.

Rangers 1, Royals 0

Texas

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Choo dh

4

0

1

1

0

0

.246

Andrus ss

4

0

0

0

0

3

.295

Beltre 3b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.284

Napoli 1b

3

0

1

0

0

1

.198

Mazara rf

3

0

0

0

0

0

.256

Gomez cf

3

0

2

0

0

0

.254

Odor 2b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.215

Lucroy c

3

0

1

0

0

1

.257

1-Gallo pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

.192

Chirinos c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.220

DeShields lf

2

0

0

0

0

0

.283

Totals

29

1

5

1

0

6

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

4

0

1

0

0

0

.284

Bonifacio rf

4

0

1

0

0

1

.254

Cain cf

3

0

1

0

1

1

.272

Hosmer 1b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.314

Perez c

4

0

0

0

0

2

.282

Moustakas 3b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.270

Escobar ss

2

0

0

0

1

0

.225

Moss dh

3

0

1

0

0

1

.196

Gordon lf

3

0

0

0

0

0

.190

Totals

30

0

4

0

2

7

Texas

000

000

001

--

1

5

0

Royals

000

000

000

--

0

4

0

1-ran for Lucroy in the 9th.

LOB: Texas 2, Kansas City 5. 2B: Merrifield (18). 3B: Napoli (1). RBIs: Choo (43). S: DeShields.

Runners left in scoring position: Texas 1 (Odor); Kansas City 3 (Bonifacio, Cain 2). RISP: Texas 1 for 4; Kansas City 1 for 5. GIDP: Odor, Perez. DP: Texas 1 (Claudio, Odor, Napoli); Kansas City 1 (Merrifield, Escobar, Hosmer).

Texas

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Hamels

7.2

4

0

0

1

5

99

3.05

Leclerc W, 2-2

0.1

0

0

0

1

1

9

3.38

Claudio S, 3

1

0

0

0

0

1

8

2.64

Royals

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Duffy L, 5-6

8.1

5

1

1

0

4

91

3.51

Herrera

0.2

0

0

0

0

2

9

4.41

Leclerc pitched to 1 batter in the 9th.

Inherited runners-scored: Leclerc 1-0, Claudio 1-0, Herrera 1-0.

Umpires: Home, Quinn Wolcott; First, Paul Emmel; Second, Brian O'Nora; Third, Scott Barry. Time: 2:32. Att: 32,907.

___

(c)2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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