Yet it wasn't enough, as the Royals' bullpen gave up two runs in the seventh and the Twins held on for a 3-1 victory at Target Field. The Royals now have lost 10 straight and 28 of 32.
"I thought [that last start was a blip]," Duffy said. "I think I've figured out quite a bit over the last two starts."
Lefty reliever Tim Hill gave up a double to Bobby Wilson, who was hitting .131, to lead off the seventh, and a single by Joe Mauer pushed Wilson to third. An infield groundout by Eddie Rosario brought home the tying run, and Eduardo Escobar later singled home another run off Kevin McCarthy.
Brandon Maurer gave up another run in the eighth.
Duffy, though, was sharp from the get-go, striking out the side in the first. Mixing his four-seam fastball with an impressive curveball, Duffy struck out nine. He walked two and gave up six harmless singles.
"We're starting to figure out how to get that [curveball] down when we need to," Duffy said. "It's great that Salvy [Salvador Perez] has so much confidence now in calling it. He called a hell of a game. I'm really enjoying throwing my curveball these days because I'm not losing it up like I used to. Just stay in the lane."
Since May 24, Duffy has dialed up six outings in which he went at least six innings and gave up one or zero runs. His ERA dropped to 4.89, its lowest since April 17.
"Pretty much simple approach tonight," Duffy said. "When I fell behind, I just put the ball down and away. That may not be our game plan going forward, but we were able to get out of some stuff with our fastball."
The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the third when Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar delivered back-to-back doubles. But the offense, as has been the case since the beginning of June, did virtually nothing thereafter, finishing the night with just seven hits.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The Royals had an excellent chance to break things open in the fourth. Mike Moustakas was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and Perez then doubled to center. But Lucas Duda was called out on strikes on a pitch seemingly high and out of the zone. Duda argued with home-plate umpire Will Little, and not long after, Royals manager Ned Yost voiced his displeasure from the dugout. Yost eventually was ejected, his first of the season. Rosell Herrera then grounded out to third, with the runners holding, and Gordon grounded out to first to end the threat.
"We've been struggling to score runs with runners in scoring position," Yost said. "And I don't mind if you're gonna miss a pitch. [Little] obviously missed the pitch. It was obvious with my eye, and then it was obvious when I looked at replay. It's OK if you miss strike one. But strike three to end the at-bat when he's working the at-bat and he's working hard?
"Yeah, of course I'm gonna be upset. But you know I yelled at him just to 'get his act together,' and he looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. What does that mean? Does that mean you don't care? Is that what it means? So that's what set me off. I've got my player working out there and you're gonna shrug your shoulders at me? You're missing a call, a crucial call? I didn't like it."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY Herrera was called out on a pickoff play at first base in the sixth inning. Replays on television and the Target Field scoreboard appeared to show Herrera got his hand back to the bag before the tag by first baseman Mauer. The Royals challenged, but the call stood, which baffled the Royals.
"I went back and looked at the replay on Herrera and ... I don't know what's going on," Yost said.
UP NEXT Right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-8, 5.11 ERA) is expected to be activated from the disabled list and start for the Royals in Game 2 of the series at 7:10 p.m. CT at Target Field. Kennedy last pitched June 29 at Seattle, where he went five innings and allowed five runs before leaving early because of a left oblique strain. Right-hander Aaron Slegers (1-0, 2.38 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Twins.