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Duffy finishes strong as KC wins I-70 series

@FlannyMLB
September 24, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- This is exactly what Royals left-hander Danny Duffy was looking for in his final start to of 2020 -- a strong finish. Duffy coasted through 5 2/3 innings Wednesday night against St. Louis, giving up six hits and one run in Kansas City’s 12-3 triumph at Kauffman

KANSAS CITY -- This is exactly what Royals left-hander Danny Duffy was looking for in his final start to of 2020 -- a strong finish.

Duffy coasted through 5 2/3 innings Wednesday night against St. Louis, giving up six hits and one run in Kansas City’s 12-3 triumph at Kauffman Stadium.

Box score

Meanwhile, the Royals’ offense erupted, mainly behind the muscle of Salvador Perez and Franchy Cordero, who slugged two home runs apiece to help lock up a series victory against the intrastate rivals.

Here’s a look at three key elements Wednesday night:

Duffy bounces back
Duffy was skipped a start last week when he missed the team’s charter flight out of Kansas City. He then started Friday in Milwaukee and got hit hard in the fourth inning, giving up six runs.

This time, Duffy gave up just two hits through four scoreless innings. He was nicked for a run in the fifth on an infield single by Rangel Ravelo and an RBI ground-ball single by Dexter Fowler.

Duffy got into some trouble in the sixth before giving way to Scott Barlow with the bases loaded and two outs. Barlow got the final out, a soft roller to first by Brad Miller.

Duffy walked only one and struck out five. The key was Duffy’s changeup, which hasn’t always been spot-on this season. It was on Wednesday. He threw it 18 times and got eight called strikes or whiffs.

“He was great,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I would say that’s the best changeup he’s had this season. It was making his fastball so much better. It had so much depth it looked like a slider. And he had a great tempo.”

Added Duffy: “It was nice to leave with a good taste. It’s a shame I found the changeup this late, but, hopefully, I hang on to that feeling and remember the slot.”

The Salvy-Franchy show
Perez homered in his first two at-bats -- a two-run homer in the first and a three-run shot in the third. Perez took over the team lead in homers with 10 despite playing in only 33 games.

Perez is hitting .447 (21 of 47) since coming off the injured list on Sept. 11, with six doubles and six home runs. The eye issue -- fluid particles in his left eye -- has improved, though he said it is not completely clear yet. He will see an eye specialist again Thursday morning.

Asked if perhaps the whole team should have such “eye issues” that might even improve the offense, Perez laughed and said, “I don’t want them to miss 15 games like I did! Maybe it’s worth it, you never know.”

Cordero was equally impressive on this night, having just been activated from the 45-day IL a few hours before game time. He hit a three-run jack in the sixth inning and a solo shot in the seventh -- his first two homers as with the Royals. Cordero was acquired from San Diego in the Tim Hill trade during Summer Camp.

Cordero didn’t even find out he would be activated until 2:30 p.m. CT after outfielder Bubba Starling’s sudden back issues put him on the IL.

“Definitely not,” Cordero said through interpreter Luis Perez when asked if he thought there was any chance he’d be in a big league uniform Wednesday night. “I got here early and was ready to get my hitting done. And then I was driving home and I got the call and was told to come back.”

Matheny was amazed at Cordero’s performance.

“What a story,” the manager said. “He wasn’t even supposed to be a part of the team today. He put on a show.”

Junis delivers in relief
The other perhaps significant development was right-hander Jakob Junis’ first relief outing since his rookie year of 2017. Junis had made 75 straight starts since then. The Royals had discussed internally last offseason whether Junis might be better served as a bullpen piece. He pitched one inning Wednesday and struck out the side.

Junis had a 6.94 ERA in six starts this season.

“I don’t know if I can ask for more than that,” Matheny said. “He did a nice job of using the fastball and then that slider, it’s an exceptional pitch. To use it in short stints where guys don’t get a good look at it … he walked off the field with a smile today.”

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