Bounced by the best: Royals get Kershaw’d at The K
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dodgers left-handed sensation Clayton Kershaw perhaps didn’t have his no-hit stuff Tuesday.
Then again, he probably didn’t need it against the Royals’ sputtering offense, which has wasted four brilliant starts from the team’s rotation in the last six days.
Kershaw, who tossed a no-no in his last outing, didn’t have the same suspense this time — Eric Hosmer singled with one out in the first.
But the Royals managed just five other harmless singles and went down quietly, 2-0.
"He’s everything as advertised," Hosmer said. "He’s got four tough pitches that he can get you out with and he attacks you, so you have to go after him early to avoid the breaking balls."
Kershaw, who went eight innings, relied heavily on his slider, walking just one and fanning eight.
"Probably the best slider we’ve faced all year," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The Royals now have dropped five of six after their 10-game winning streak. In four of those losses, they have scored a total of just three runs.
— Danny is manly again. Left-hander Danny Duffy was only slightly off with his command (four walks) but he nonetheless kept the Dodgers guessing and off-balance. Duffy got nicked for a very soft run in the first and that was it. He wound up going six innings and giving up just four hits and the one run. He struck out five.
"He battled for six innings and really should have gotten out of it by giving up zero runs," Yost said.
Duffy admitted later he didn’t have his best command. "But I was proud of the way I got through six innings," he said.
Duffy also couldn’t help but sneak a peek at Kershaw. "He’s obviously one of the best in the game," Duffy said. "That slider is so nasty."
— The other Danny is manly, too. While most Royals hitters were flailing away at Kershaw (see: Lorenzo Cain, three strikeouts), Danny Valencia seemed to have a plan. He singled twice — the first on a bouncer between short and third that he legged out in the fifth inning. He also rifled a single to left in the seventh.
— Why baseball is crazy. Hosmer is the Royals’ hitter struggling the most. And he was facing perhaps the best pitcher in the game. So, naturally, Hoz smacked two singles in his first two at-bats. Hoz swung wildly at a fastball shoulder high in the first and lined a single to left. He guessed right on a fastball in his next trip to the plate and shot a grounder up the middle for a hit.
"He’s got his game plan and he sticks to it," Hosmer said. "He attacks early, so you have to, too."
— The soft runs. Duffy nearly made a great escape in the first after Justin Turner led off the game with a 13-pitch at-bat and stroked a triple to right-center. Cain almost made another spectacular catch, extending fully in a dive, but the ball missed his glove by an inch. Duffy then got Matt Kemp on a groundout to short with the infield in. Yasiel Puig was next and he hit a soft tap between Duffy and Valencia at third. Valencia hesitated for a brief moment, thinking Duffy might get it. That cost Valencia as Puig beat the throw to first as Turner held. The Royals challenged but the call stood. That would have been the second out.
Adrian Gonzalez then hit a soft grounder off Duffy’s glove — if he had missed it, the Royals would have had a 6-4-3 double play. Instead, shortstop Alcides Escobar grabbed the grounder and flipped to second for a force, the only play, and the run scored. Ugh.
"I’ve been kicking myself ever since I touched that ball," Duffy said. "You know, all of us pitchers think we’re athletes and think we can make any play. But if I let that go, it’s right to Esky for a double play and we’re out of it."
The Dodgers got another run in the ninth with a walk, a ground ball that eluded Valencia at third, and another roller up the middle that somehow got past Escobar, who is recovering from a bruised shin. Yost, however, said the injury had nothing to do with it. "He thought he had it," Yost said. "It just slipped under (his glove)."
— Chances were there. It’s not like the Royals were lifeless offensively. They did have Hoz’s one-out single in the first, but Billy Butler went after the very next pitch and tapped into a double play (the Royals’ 66th this year, fourth in the league). The Royals had two on with two out in the fourth, but Sal Perez could do nothing off Kershaw and grounded weakly to third. And the Royals had two on and one out in the seventh. But Justin Maxwell looked overmatched and hit a soft grounder to third, reaching on a forceout. Then Escobar rolled a grounder over the second-base bag but couldn’t beat the throw from second baseman Miguel Rojas. (Esky might still be slowed a fraction by the contusion on his left shin, though Yost disagrees.)
— Swinging at 3-0. No! It’s kind of tough to pick on Valencia — he did have two hits, and he made a great play to throw out Puig in the fifth to save a run. But Valencia, leading off the third with the Royals down 1-0, had a chance to coax a walk when the count went to 3-0. The Royals naturally needed all the baserunners they could get. But Valencia swung at the 3-0 pitch and fouled it off. He then swung at the 3-1 pitch and rolled out to second. The Royals now have swung at 11 3-0 pitches this year — and have two hits.