Royals blank Indians for back-to-back wins
Turnabout is fair play as far as Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny is concerned. His club has had the wind taken out of its sails several times by missed scoring opportunities this season.
So when they turned the tables and did the same thing to the Cleveland Indians, he certainly recognized it and enjoyed the view from the other side.
Royals starter Danny Duffy pitched into and out of the type of jam that typically ruins an outing, and his teammates answered immediately in the next half-inning in a sequence of events that ultimately decided the outcome as the Royals secured a 3-0 win over the Indians at Progressive Field Wednesday night.
Relievers Jesse Hahn, Josh Staumont and Greg Holland pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings to finish off the second shutout of the season for the Royals (16-28).
The Royals won back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 8-9, the first time they did so on the road since Sept. 11-12, 2019 at Chicago. They can win the four-game series with a victory in Thursday's finale.
"That's a really good team over there, top to bottom," Duffy said. "It's always fun to compete against them. Being able to get through with a win, pitch the way we pitched today and hit the way we hit, that was a big step for us."
Royals second baseman Nicky Lopez had three hits and an RBI, while Whit Merrifield and Edward Olivares had two hits apiece. Cam Gallagher had a hit and scored a run.
Adalberto Mondesi (1 for 4) extended his hitting streak to six games and drove in the first run of the game with a sixth-inning RBI single. Mondesi has driven in five runs during his hitting streak.
Duffy (3-3) pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed four hits and four walks. He also struck out four as he bounced back from having given up six runs in six innings against the Chicago White Sox in his previous start.
Duffy entered the night having held opposing hitters to a .174 batting average — just four hits — with runners in scoring position this season.
In the fourth inning, he struck out Oscar Mercado with runners on second and third to keep the Indians out of the scoring column.
Duffy held the Indians (26-17) to two walks and two hits through the first four innings as he and Indians starter Carlos Carrasco held the respective offenses scoreless.
The first two batters of the fifth inning, Roberto Perez and Delino DeShields, reached base against Duffy on a walk and a single up the middle.
Following a sacrifice bunt, Duffy walked Jose Ramirez to load the bases with one out and Indians star shortstop Francisco Lindor up next.
Duffy retired the Indians' No. 3 and No. 4 hitters Lindor and Carlos Santana on a fly ball to center field and a strikeout looking to strand the bases loaded. Duffy froze Santana with a 1-2 curveball for his fourth strikeout of the game.
"To be honest with you, I've been bit by big innings a lot this year," Duffy said. "I think the fifth is where my start went to die a few times this year and I wasn't able to put a cap on it. To be able to navigate through that fifth today was really crucial for me."
In the top of the sixth, the Royals broke through against Carrasco with three consecutive singles to start the inning by Gallagher, Merrifield and Mondesi. Mondesi ripped a two-strike changeup into right field to break a 0-0 tie.
"We were putting together some good at-bats leading up to that inning," Lopez said. "Obviously, a great shutdown inning by Duff to get out of that. I think definitely some momentum carried over."
The Royals scored two runs in the top of the ninth on the strength of an Alex Gordon single, Olivares' RBI triple and Lopez's RBI single.
"That's a momentum shifter," Matheny said. "We know that on the other side because we've been there a number of times. We've had bases loaded and less than two outs, and you can just feel we're about to do something big. Next thing you know, we did nothing.
"We know what that feels like to try to fight that and combat it. Then the opposition comes in and puts one on you, it's kind of a double whammy at that point. It was huge for Duffy to be able to pitch through that.