The Royals may be out of the playoff hunt. They may have stood pat at the trade deadline, when it seemed they had something to gain by selling. They may have suffered through a seriously frustrating month of July. Yet on an August night in Tampa, Danny Duffy reminded us why we are fans of this game, this team, and this particular pitcher.
On this August night in Tampa, Danny Duffy threw eight one-hit innings and set a single game franchise record for strikeouts in the process.
It was evident from the opening inning that Duffy had his flow working. He struck out two batters in the first, cruising through in just 10 pitches. He whiffed the side in the second. Then found two more victims in the third.
Through three perfect innings, Duffy threw 36 pitches and recorded seven strikeouts. All of them swinging. Sometimes, you turn on a nondescript game in August expecting baseball to provide the background soundtrack to another summer evening. Sometimes, when glancing at the first couple of pitches, you can tell something special is unfolding. Monday in Tampa was one of those nights.
Moving on to the fourth, Duffy jumped ahead of Logan Forsythe to open the frame, but lost him on a walk. It was the only base runner he would allow until the eighth.
If there was a high stress inning, it would have been that fourth. After the Forsythe walk, Duffy got the first out on one pitch, but then battled for the next two, requiring 10 pitches and sandwiching a throwing error of his own on a wild pickoff attempt.
Duffy whiffed two more in the fifth and caught one looking in the sixth. He had pure swing and miss stuff. His fastball was electric. According to preliminary data from Brooks Baseball, Duffy threw 61 fastballs and generated 17 swings and misses. That’s a whiff on 28 percent of his fastballs. Oh, my. It got hot in here just writing that stat.
As lively as his fastball was, it was Duffy’s change that was a pure power pitch. He threw 27 of them at the Rays and got 14 swings and misses. That’s an over 50 percent swing and miss rate on his change.
And the curve? He threw 21 of those and only got 3 swings and misses. But all three of those were third strikes.
Clint Scoles tells me Duffy’s 35 swings and misses ties Clayton Kershaw from a start last season for the most swings and misses in a game in 15 years.
The Rays had no chance.
Cruising into the eighth with a no-hitter, Duffy as awhile as the Royals tacked on a couple of insurance runs. Did it affect his performance? Hard to say. But the first batter of the eighth, Desmond Jennings, fouled off a couple of pitches before he lined a double to left. A shame that the Rays found a base knock, but Duffy powered back and struck out his final two batters of the game. That’s 16 strikeouts, a Royals franchise record. The soon to be updated leaderboard:
|1||Zack Greinke||2009-08-25||KCR||CLE||W 6-2||GS-8, W||8.0||5||2||2||1||15||117||77||78|
|2||Mark Gubicza||1988-08-27||KCR||MIN||W 4-1||CG, W||9.0||6||1||1||3||14||142||83||82|
|3||Luke Hochevar||2009-07-25||KCR||TEX||W 6-3||GS-7, W||7.0||5||3||2||0||13||112||76||70|
|4||Kevin Appier||1996-08-29||KCR||DET||L 1-4||CG(8), L||8.0||9||4||4||1||13||134||84||60|
|5||Kevin Appier||1995-09-15||KCR||CAL||W 5-0||SHO, W||9.0||3||0||0||1||13||115||81||93|
|6||Kevin Appier||1994-05-25||KCR||TEX||W 8-3||GS-6, W||5.2||4||1||1||3||13||110||71||67|
|7||Tom Gordon||1991-04-20||KCR||NYY||W 5-2||GS-7, W||7.0||4||0||0||4||13||128||76||78|
|8||Bret Saberhagen||1989-09-30||KCR||OAK||W 6-1||GS-8, W||8.0||4||1||1||2||13||116||74||81|
|9||Dennis Leonard||1977-09-23||KCR||CAL||W 7-3||CG, W||9.0||5||3||3||4||13||74|
|10||Dennis Leonard||1977-07-08||KCR||OAK||W 6-2||CG, W||9.0||6||2||2||1||13||79|
|11||Steve Busby||1973-07-10||KCR||MIL||W 5-3||CG, W||9.0||7||3||3||5||13||69|
|12||Dick Drago||1972-05-24||KCR||MIN||L 0-1||CG(12), L||12.0||6||1||1||1||13||98|
Duffy’s final line:
8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 16 SO, 100 pitches
His Game Score was 100, which is the best in the majors this summer, topping a start from our nemesis Madison Bumgarner’s 98 as the previous high. (I’m seeing some discrepancy in the Game Score. MLB.com has 100. ESPN has 95. We’ll see.)
This is the kind of game that, no matter what happens for the rest of the season, we will remember for a long, long time. The will be no October magic in Kansas City this year, but there will be reminders from time to time why this team is so special. Duffy is Kansas City. From his ups and downs, from his Tommy John surgery and his rehab, to his bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen, and his declaration to “Bury me a Royal,” we’ve charted Duffy’s evolution as a player and his growth as a person. It hasn’t always been easy, but if it had been, Monday night in Tampa wouldn’t have been so sweet.
Just a special, special performance. After a brutal July, we needed that.
Thank you, Danny Duffy.