ANAHEIM — The Royals were in need of a strong starting pitching performance in Sunday’s series finale at Angel Stadium, and Danny Duffy gave them exactly that, leading his team to a 5-1 victory over the Angels to snap a four-game losing streak.
“Today we ran into a guy who pitched well,” the Halos’ Kole Calhoun said. “Duffy pitched well. You can’t take anything away from him. Today was probably the best I’ve seen him throw, personally.”
Duffy navigated his way through six innings of one-run ball on 106 pitches (69 strikes). It wasn’t an especially dominating effort, as he allowed nine baserunners — on five hits, three walks and a hit batter — while striking out five. But his ability to work through trouble and prevent big innings allowed him to notch his third quality start in five outings this year.
“I felt like I threw the ball pretty well,” said Duffy. “Early on, I was a little bit more wild than you obviously want to [be], but I was able to make pitches when I needed to, and I really located my heater well today, for the most part. I was pleased with that.”
Things easily could have gotten away from Duffy in a troublesome bottom of the fourth, when he hit Kole Calhoun with a pitch before surrendering an RBI double to Kevan Smith with one out. Smith advanced to third on an infield single, but Duffy was able to put a stop to things by getting a popout and a groundout.
“He threw the ball extremely well, changed speeds extremely well,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He did a great job of saving that run in that inning. He ended up giving up the one, but it’s a different game if they score that next run, and he did a great job of limiting the damage there.”
Duffy once again found himself in a jam in the sixth, when he issued a two-out walk to Smith and deflected a Tommy La Stella 94.8-mph comebacker off his foot for a base hit. After getting checked out by Yost and team trainer Nick Kenney, Duffy was deemed OK to stay in. He proceeded to induce a foul flyout from Zack Cozart to escape the inning.
“Our trainer, Nick, came out, he was like, ‘It get you on the laces?’ And I said, ‘No, on the top of the foot.’ He was like, ‘So, the laces.’ I said, ‘Nah, the top of the foot,’” said Duffy with a laugh. “But it’s just adrenaline going. I’ll be fine. I’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but I’ll be good.”
Duffy has been the Royals’ best starter since his April 26 activation following an injured-list stint with left shoulder impingement syndrome. He has posted a 3.45 ERA, the lowest of any Kansas City starter by more than a run.
“He’s as consistent as he’s been in the last couple of years, and the reason for it is he’s healthy,” said Yost. “He feels good, he feels strong. He’s commanding the ball well, and he’s pitching extremely well.”
The location of the victory made the outing particularly special for Duffy, a resident of Lompoc, Calif., about 200 miles north of Anaheim. Duffy estimated he had upwards of 40 friends and family members in the stands. That included his father, Dan, along for the club’s annual family trip.
“It was nice, man,” said Duffy. “Those were the people who come to the game to support and don’t expect anything in return. Those are the people who I try to latch onto, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them for making that 3 1/2 hour drive down here.”
Once Duffy exited, Scott Barlow, Jake Diekman and Ian Kennedy closed things out with three scoreless frames. Duffy’s performance was bolstered by a three-run third inning, when the heart of the order combined for a walk, two singles and a double to get the Royals their first lead of the series. They tacked on single insurance runs in the sixth and ninth innings. Twelve of Kansas City’s 16 wins this season have come when it scored first.
“It felt great,” said Duffy of the victory. “Whether we’re winning or losing, a win is a win. Obviously, we haven’t been playing our best baseball lately, but to be able to come in here and steal one on the back end, it means a lot. Gonna go to St. Louis and feel good about what we accomplished today, and hopefully, we can take it to the Cardinals.”