MIAMI -- Though postseason hopes aren’t on the line this weekend at Marlins Park, that doesn’t change the Royals’ mindset, especially as they play some of their best baseball during the season’s final month.
Left-hander Danny Duffy put together a solid start and the offense capitalized on late Marlins miscues in a six-run seventh inning, as the Royals captured their third straight series win with a 7-2 comeback victory on Saturday night.
“It's huge,” Duffy said. “We're playing well. Like I said in my last start, we have to treat every day like it’s the most important game that we'll ever play. Regardless of where we’re at in the standings, we don’t take a single pitch for granted, and you saw that with the way our guys battled in the top of the seventh. We all want to do the best we can for each other and finish on a strong note, be able to ride that wave.”
Here are the three stars of the game:
He collected his first win since July 28 by allowing just one run and a season-low two hits over six innings. His lone blemish was a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch to opposing pitcher Caleb Smith with two strikes in the second. Consecutive walks preceded the run-scoring HBP.
The 30-year-old Duffy called the outing a grind, as he continually reminded himself to drive the ball down -- something he couldn’t do very much of early on. Still, Duffy limited the damage and kept his club in the game with the chance to rally.
In two starts since returning from the injured list with a left hamstring strain, Duffy has given up five runs (four earned) in 12 1/3 innings. He also recorded his first hit since July 9, 2017, with a leadoff single in the fifth.
“Honestly, I felt like I was less in control today,” said Duffy, who walked four and struck out five. “I felt like my command was a tick off. I was able to make pitches when I needed to, but I felt like my command coming off the IL was better than it was today.”
2. Ryan McBroom
Trailing, 1-0, in the seventh inning, the Royals quickly turned their deficit into a 6-1 lead by taking advantage of sloppy defense by the Marlins. After first baseman Garrett Cooper strayed too far from the bag on a routine grounder to second by Bubba Starling to lead off the frame, pinch-hitter Cheslor Cuthbert walked and Whit Merrifield sent a blooper to left that dropped and scored a run when Austin Dean bobbled the ball. Following a strikeout and intentional walk, Hunter Dozier hit a go-ahead RBI single and Alex Gordon walked in a run.
But the big blow came from McBroom, who had just missed his first Major League homer on a double in the fourth. He knocked a bases-clearing double to right field off Ryne Stanek to cap the scoring.
“The pressure was high, and I just locked it in,” said McBroom, who went 2-for-5. “Looking for a fastball over the plate I could drive, and I got a good pitch I could hit. I went to right field with it and was able to score three runs, and it was huge for us.”
Since being acquired from the Yankees last Saturday, McBroom has hit safely in all four games he has started for the Royals. He recorded three of the game’s seven-fastest exit velocities, according to Statcast. McBroom acknowledged that nerves have been high because he wants to impress his new organization, but not to the detriment of his play on the field.
It’s a continuation of what McBroom did at Triple-A this season, when he slashed .315/.402/.574 and led the International League in runs scored (87) and OPS (.976).
“I like the way he swings the bat,” manager Ned Yost said. “I like his swing. I like his confidence. He put up really, really good numbers in Triple-A this year. Looks good here so far.”
3. Tim Hill
After Jacob Barnes permitted a run and exited with two runners on and one out in the eighth, Yost turned to the left-handed Hill to squash the threat. He did so by getting pinch-hitter Martin Prado to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to keep it a 6-2 ballgame.
Hill, who also induced an inning-ending groundout in Thursday's series finale in Detroit, entered Saturday with a 62 percent ground-ball rate -- ninth among American League relievers with at least 10 innings pitched, according to Fangraphs. He pitched a scoreless ninth to collect his first save of the season after Jorge Soler extended the franchise’s single-season home run mark to 41 in the top half of the fame.
“Huge in that situation [that] Timmy came in to,” Yost said. “[Closer Ian Kennedy has] been in five out of seven, but felt good today and was going to go in for a save, but I did not want to use him. I didn't want to get in that situation where now it's a four-run lead, it's two guys on in the ninth and I’ve got to bring him. Timmy gets out [of it], Soler's 41st home run was big, puts it back to five. Timmy closes it out. Great job by Timmy keeping Ian out of that game.”