ATLANTA — In the middle of their youth movement and letting young players adjust to the rigors of competing at the big-league level, the Royals leaned on their veterans to secure a road victory against the National League's second-best team on Tuesday night.
The Royals' 30-and-over club paved the way to a 5-4 win against the Atlanta Braves in the first game of a two-game set in front of an announced 36,570 at SunTrust Park on a night when it looked like Braves starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel might be a one-man wrecking crew.
Royals left-hander pitcher Danny Duffy, 30, turned in his best outing of the season with 11 strikeouts, while outfielder Alex Gordon, 35, collected a three-hit game that included a home run and an RBI double. He finished the night a triple shy of the cycle.
The biggest hit of the night, an eight-inning home run that put the Royals (38-64) ahead for good, came off the bat of veteran slugger Lucas Duda, 33.
Duda's eighth-inning pinch-hit home run put the Royals ahead 3-2 an inning after it looked like the bullpen may have let the Braves (60-42) take control of the game.
Instead, the Royals tacked on two more runs in the eighth courtesy of a bases-loaded walk by Jorge Soler and Humberto Arteaga got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The inning ended with the Royals up 5-2.
Duda's bomb to deep right-center (estimated 435 feet) was the first pinch-hit homer for the Royals since Ryan O'Hearn on Aug. 15, 2018, against Toronto.
Duda's last pinch-hit home run came as a member of the Braves. This time, he snapped relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak's scoreless-innings streak at 17, which had been longest active streak in the majors.
The Braves scored one run on a bad-hop single to shortstop that Arteaga couldn't glove with two outs in the eighth.
Royals closer Ian Kennedy, 34, gave up three hits and a run in the ninth, but he hung on for his 18th save of the season.
Duffy's 11 strikeouts were a season-high. He allowed one run on five hits and one walk and two hit batters in six innings. He hadn't recorded a double-digit strikeout game since June 9, 2018, against Oakland. He also became the first pitcher in club history with multiple outings of at least 11 strikeouts.
Keuchel struck out 12 in six innings. He allowed two runs on three hits and two walks. It marked his sixth career double-digit strikeout performance, his first since Sept. 27, 2015, against Texas.