The Baseball Gods giveth, the Baseball Gods taketh away.
After a four-game winning streak that included a sweep of the rival New York Yankees, the Rays ran headlong into Danny Duffy and his historic pitching performance.
Tampa Bay had a veritable "Duffy Day" on Monday, having traded for San Francisco third baseman Matt Duffy and two minor leaguers in exchange for Matt Moore immediately before being shutout and struck out 16 times by Danny Duffy (no relation to Matt).
Perhaps what was most frustrating about this game was that while Duffy had a career day on the hill, Rays' ace Chris Archer had one of his best performances of the season. Archer struck out six Royals' hitters on Monday night while only walking one and allowing six hits in 7.1 innings. His fastball was lively, hitting the mid to upper 90s and his slider was the most electric I've seen it this season. He was throwing with fire and conviction and just seemed more like the Archer from last season. On a day where many around baseball thought he could be on the move, I hope this version of Archer sticks around for next year.
However, the story of the night was Danny Duffy.
Duffy had everything working Monday. His fastball was alive and he pinpointed its location consistently from the word go. He played his circle-change perfectly off of that fastball, throwing it most effectively down-and-away from righties. The KC southpaw's slider was moving too, but nothing could top that changeup. Duffy gave credit to the Tampa Bay ground crew for putting together a great mound that made him feel comfortable, but he earned every single one of those Kansas City franchise-record 16 strikeouts, as he surpassed Zack Greinke for the milestone.
Naturally, when the opposing pitcher is just straight dealing, the offense doesn't account for much of the story.
Desmond Jennings finally broke up the no-no leading off the bottom of the eighth inning. Duffy looked to catch him on a slider up and out of the zone, but left it letter-high and Jennings roped it into deep left and off the wall for a double. That would be the extent of the Rays' offensive efforts, aside from a Logan Forsythe walk.
The damage on the Royals' side of the scoresheet came off the bats of Kendrys Morales and Paulo Orlando, two hitters who have had Chris Archer's number. Morales broke the scoreless tie with his seventeenth home run of the year with one out in the seventh inning. Orlando singled and later scored in the top of the eighth. In the same inning, Alcides Escobar, who drove in Orlando, scored on a sac fly off the bat of Lorenzo Cain. Morales would finish 2-for-4 and Orlando 3-for-4.
It was a tough loss, but certainly not the toughest we've seen this season and one that had flashes of promise lined with the hope that the new acquisitions can make an impact in the future; we just have to limp through the end of this season to start that future.
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