Well, that renewed confidence in the offense that the Royals were chatting about after an 8-0 win over the Padres on Wednesday certainly was short-lived.
The Royals’ offense went back into hibernation in the first game of a four-game set with the Mariners, losing 1-0 Thursday and thus wasting a solid start from left-hander Danny Duffy and two more shutout innings from right-hander Kelvin Herrera. Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma made the Royals look helpless offensively, holding them to four harmless singles through eight shutout innings. Iwakuma didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven.
Iwakuma, the Mariners’ pitcher of the year last season, now has 16 straight scoreless innings thrown against the Royals dating to last September. In those 16 innings, he has given up just eight hits, walked one and struck out 16.
Iwakuma was making just his second start of the season after coming off the disabled list.
— Locking up a rotation spot? It’s likely Duffy will get several more starts now, regardless of when Bruce Chen comes off the disabled list. Duffy survived a shaky start when he began the game with six straight balls. But he found his command and walked just two more hitters, one intentional. He gave up just two hits and fanned four. He was nicked for the only run of the game when Mike Zunino doubled, went to third on a sacrifice, and scored on Corey Hart’s single to center. Duffy’s fastball had plenty of movement as he got the Mariners to pop out or fly out 10 times.
— The Hoz keeps rolling. The only Royals hitter who seemed to have confident swings was the red-hot Eric Hosmer, who was coming off a terrific series at San Diego. Hoz had two more hits — both hard-hit grounders to center — and also patiently waited out a walk from closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth that gave the Royals a chance.
— Herrera looks fine again. Herrera turned in his seventh straight appearance without allowing a run, and he now has given up just one run in his last 11 2/3 innings. He came into Thursday’s game after Duffy hit the leadoff batter in the seventh. He promptly retired the next six hitters to give the Royals’ offense a chance.
— Billy cools off. Billy Butler came into the game as one of the team’s hottest hitters, going 13 for his last 37. But having to sit three games in San Diego because of the National League rules cooled him off in a hurry. Butler had a horrible night at the plate, striking out twice, and grounding into a double play that killed a scoring chance in the fourth after Hosmer had led off with a single. Then in the ninth, with a shaky Rodney on the mound and runners on first and second, Butler whiffed, chasing a changeup that almost landed in the dirt.
— Tired bat syndrome. You can always tell when Sal Perez needs a day off — his bat speed slows and he usually winds up rolling slow grounders to the left side of the infield. Well, after catching two extra-inning games in San Diego, plus catching a day game after a night game, Perez again looks gassed. He rolled three soft grounders to short and one to second for an 0-for-4 night. With the tying run on second and the lead run on first in the ninth against Rodney, Perez went after the second pitch and hit a lazy grounder to short, ending the game.
— Easy to second guess, but …. When managerial moves don’t work out, it’s always easy to wag your finger at the manager, and there probably will be some of that after skipper Ned Yost chose to intentionally walk Robinson Cano with a runner on third and two out in the third. The move blew up when Hart, the next hitter, smashed a single to center to plate the game’s only run. Hart had good swings against Duffy his first time up, eventually driving a ball to deep center field for an out. Now, I will say it did seem rather early in the game to intentionally walk a hitter. And Yost, who generally loves lefty-lefty matchups, bypassed that one with Cano to get to the right-handed-hitting Hart. But hey, if Duffy had made a better pitch to Hart and got him out, Yost’s decision would have looked genius.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.