The ace of the best rotation in the Major League Baseball takes the hill for the Kansas City Royals when they open a seven-game road trip at Texas on Thursday night against the Rangers.
Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy will try to continue a nice roll for Royals starters, whose collective 2.07 ERA is a full run better than the next-best rotation in baseball (Mets, 3.08). The Royals have gotten six straight great efforts from their starters, most recently Jason Vargas, who pitched seven innings of four-hit, shutout ball as he and Kansas City beat Madison Bumgarner and the Giants 2-0 on Wednesday night.
Duffy (2-0, 1.80 ERA) is off to a sterling start and is 14-3 since the beginning of last season.
“Pitching is contagious, just like hitting is,” Duffy said. “It’s been fun to watch. I think I’ve just been trying to follow Vargy and what he’s been doing and so on and so forth. Everybody has been doing a great job.”
As good a roll as Duffy has been on, that hasn’t translated in his outings against the Rangers. In four starts against Texas in his career, he’s 1-1 with a 5.31 ERA. The one win came last year as he limited the Rangers to one run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Duffy faces a Texas team that’s struggling offensively, having scored two runs or less in four of its last six games.
While KC pitchers have been doing their job, KC batters have not. The Royals have scored only 41 runs this season, last in baseball, and their .221 batting average ranks 24th.
Two of the offensive keys are off to terrible starts. Alex Gordon is hitting just .196, Eric Hosmer .204.
Those two need to start hitting if the Royals are to stay competitive in the American League Central.
“It is cycles,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “You just have to let them work through it. You know the talent is there. It’s always been there. Their track record is what you have to fall back on. Guys go through slumps. It’s just inevitable. Everybody is going to go through one or two over the course of the year, hopefully no more. You don’t panic. You just keep working through it.”
The Royals face a Texas club that is off to a disastrous 5-10 start, its worst since 2002.
Despite the record, starter Andrew Cashner (0-1, 5.06 ERA) has plenty to be excited about. The Texas native and former TCU standout will make his first home start for the Rangers, who signed him in the offseason.
“I’m excited,” said Cashner, who pitched for San Diego and Miami last season. “I’m going to have a lot of family and friends there. It’ll definitely be a special moment for me, for sure.”
While the start will be his first at Globe Life Park, it won’t be his first against the Royals. The right-hander is 0-2 against Kansas City despite a 2.70 ERA. He’ll be coming into the start feeling good about his first start of the season despite a 5-0 loss against the Seattle Mariners.
He was charged with three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings after missing the first two weeks with right biceps soreness.
“I think I did a lot of positive things in my first start,” Cashner said. “I thought I commanded the ball well. I definitely need to cut down on my walks (three) and work ahead of guys. I thought my changeup was really good the other day, and I’ll keep going with that.”