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Duffy, KC can't recover from tough 1st vs. Tribe

Royals unable to break through after lefty's 37-pitch, 3-run inning
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

CLEVELAND -- The early-season snowouts and an extended layoff between starts could have been Royals left-hander Danny Duffy's easy excuse for a rough first inning in the Royals' 3-2 loss to the Indians on Friday at Progressive Field. But he was having none of it.

Duffy, who had not pitched since Opening Day on March 29, struggled mightily with his command in the first inning, walking the first two hitters he faced on 10 pitches. After an RBI single by Jose Ramirez, Duffy then walked Edwin Encarnacion, loading the bases.

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CLEVELAND -- The early-season snowouts and an extended layoff between starts could have been Royals left-hander Danny Duffy's easy excuse for a rough first inning in the Royals' 3-2 loss to the Indians on Friday at Progressive Field. But he was having none of it.

Duffy, who had not pitched since Opening Day on March 29, struggled mightily with his command in the first inning, walking the first two hitters he faced on 10 pitches. After an RBI single by Jose Ramirez, Duffy then walked Edwin Encarnacion, loading the bases.

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In fact, 15 of the first 20 pitches Duffy threw were balls. And when the dust settled, the Indians wound up with three runs, overcoming a 2-0 deficit, to take the lead for good.

Duffy was taxed for 37 pitches in the first inning, and only 16 were strikes.

"I just lost my slot," Duffy said. "That first inning really hurt us. I have to do better than that. I felt sharp in the bullpen. There are no excuses."

Royals manager Ned Yost visited the mound after the walk to Encarnacion, and the conversation appeared to get somewhat animated.

"I just asked him if he was all right and he said, 'Yeah,'" Yost said. "And I said, 'I know it's been eight days and it's cold, but now is the time to trust your stuff. The bases are loaded. It's time to go. You can't be nitpicking on the corners. You're going to have to go after it.'"

Video: KC@CLE: Yost on Duffy's struggles, cold weather

Duffy gave up a soft two-run single to Michael Brantley but then retired 17 of the next 20 hitters he faced with no further damage.

"Ned just said, 'Go out and trust everything,' and that's what I started doing," Duffy said. "I think I maybe was hitting the gas a little too much instead of just backing off a little and trusting my stuff."

The Royals had taken a 2-0 lead against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco in the first on a single by Jon Jay, a double by Whit Merrifield, an RBI groundout from Mike Moustakas and a bloop single by Lucas Duda.

Video: KC@CLE: Duda breaks bat, plates a run

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Coming up empty: The Royals snapped out of an 0-for-13 skid against Carrasco with consecutive singles from Drew Butera and Jay to open the sixth. Yost opted for the sacrifice bunt, which Merrifield executed. Moustakas was intentionally walked. But Carrasco got out of the jam by freezing Duda with a low four-seam fastball for a called third strike. Cheslor Cuthbert followed with a flyout to left to leave the bases loaded, preserving Cleveland's lead.

Video: KC@CLE: Carrasco gets a flyout, strands bases loaded

Yost defended his decision to bunt: "It's freezing cold out there. I wanted to put us in position -- one base hit -- to take the lead."

Duda disagreed with the called third strike.

"But the umpire thought otherwise," Duda said. "You tip your hat [to Carrasco] and move on."

Another threat thwarted: The Royals threatened again in the eighth against reliever Andrew Miller when Jay walked and Merrifield singled to left. But Miller came back to strike out Moustakas on an 0-2 slider, then struck out Duda on an 0-2 fastball. That brought up Cuthbert again with a chance to do damage, but after falling behind 3-0, Miller got Cuthbert looking on a 3-2 backdoor slider.

"[Miller] does what he does," Duda said. "He made great pitches."

Video: KC@CLE: Miller freezes Cuthbert, preserves the lead

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Royals outfielder Jorge Soler went 0-for-3 and is now in an 0-for-34 skid dating back to last season.

FRANCONA ARGUES FOR BALK
There was some confusion in the first inning with runners on first and second when Encarnacion called for time in the batter's box without it being granted by home-plate umpire Roberto Ortiz. While Encarnacion raised an arm, Duffy started and stopped his delivery. Indians manager Terry Francona became heated as he argued for a balk call to no avail. According to MLB rule 6.02(b): If after the pitcher starts his windup or comes to a "set position" with a runner on, he does not go through with his pitch because the batter has stepped out of the box, it shall not be called a balk.

Video: KC@CLE: Francona argues case after non-balk call

WHAT'S NEXT
Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy will take the mound for the Royals in the second game of the series against the Indians on Saturday at 3:10 p.m. CT at Progressive Field. Kennedy gave up one run over six innings and struck out five in his season debut last Saturday.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Danny Duffy