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Strong 'D', pitching a glimpse of vintage Royals

@goodforball
September 18, 2019

OAKLAND -- If you half closed your eyes, you could almost see a vintage Royals team taking shape on the Oakland Coliseum’s gnarly playing surface. These Royals played admirable defense and displayed airtight pitching. All they lacked was a big hit or two. But Kansas City summoned virtually no offense

OAKLAND -- If you half closed your eyes, you could almost see a vintage Royals team taking shape on the Oakland Coliseum’s gnarly playing surface. These Royals played admirable defense and displayed airtight pitching. All they lacked was a big hit or two. But Kansas City summoned virtually no offense in its 1-0, 11-inning loss to the Oakland A’s on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, the Royals could summon some pride from their performance in this series against the A’s, who appear bound for the postseason. All three games were decided by one run. The Royals easily could have followed up their series-opening 6-5 win with another victory or two had they mustered another hit or two.

Box score

Instead, it was the A’s who got the big hit -- in this case, Mark Canha’s two-out, bases-loaded walk-off double in the 11th. It ended a contest of three hours and nine minutes that was delayed a half hour at the start by rain.

“We’re trying to play every team like that right now,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “We have a lot of young guys here trying to get experience and trying to improve so we can have a better year next year.”

Said left-hander Danny Duffy, “We were going at ’em, man. The team did a really good job matching that intensity. Overall, you’re never happy coming out on the losing side, but we were pleased with our effort.”

Duffy’s effort was particularly heartening. He went seven scoreless innings, matching his longest outing since June 12. He permitted two hits, walked one and struck out six.

“I thought this was one of Danny’s better games that he’s pitched all year long,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “He was on top of it. Great changeup, executed the location on fastballs and sliders.”

Duffy acknowledged feeling stimulated by the notion of healthy competition. In this case, he wanted to emulate or surpass Jorge López’s Tuesday night performance against the A’s (two runs and four hits allowed in six-plus innings).

“Lopie threw a heck of a game yesterday and I just kind of wanted to follow him,” Duffy said. “It was really impressive to watch that last night, and I had some confidence in my fastball today as a result of watching him do what he did. Everything seemed to work out.”

As if Duffy needed further motivation, he felt compelled to match each zero that former teammate Homer Bailey hung on the Royals. Bailey signed with the Royals as a free agent on Feb. 9 and recorded a 6-2 mark in 11 starts with them before Oakland acquired him on July 14. He reminded the Royals of how good he can be while blanking Kansas City for seven innings, allowing three hits and striking out 11, one short of his career high.

“That back and forth is always a lot of fun,” Duffy said. “You live for games like that. It was a lot of fun playing baseball today.”

Referring to an Aug. 26 game against the A’s when Bailey surrendered three runs and eight hits in six innings, Gordon said, “He looked better today than he did at our place. His splitter and changeup were working a lot better. He kept guys guessing with his fastball, which made it look even better. We saw it all year -- he’d do OK one game and then would be lights out. And today was lights out.”

When pitching wasn’t dominant, defense took over. Oakland left fielder Chad Pinder made a diving catch of Ryan O'Hearn’s seventh-inning sinking liner with two on and two out that denied the Royals one run, possibly two. Gordon survived a collision and a face plant with the left-field wall to rob Canha of an extra-base hit later in the seventh.

Oakland finally broke through against right-hander Jesse Hahn, the Royals’ fifth reliever. Hahn walked Jurickson Profar to open the A’s half of the 11th. Profar stole second base as Marcus Semien struck out swinging. Matt Chapman then struck out looking, bringing Hahn closer to survival. But after Matt Olson was intentionally walked, Canha lashed his game-winning hit inside the right-field line.

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.