KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rarely this season has the Yankees offense looked as helpless as it did Thursday night.
But against Danny Duffy and his killer slider, they got next to nothing going against him over seven shutout innings in a 5-1 loss to the Royals in front of 22,803 at Kauffman Stadium.
“His slider was really good tonight,” Joe Girardi said. “His changeup was really good, too.”
Duffy, who came in 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA, having allowed a combined three runs in his previous 13 2/3 innings, struck out the side in the first and five of the first six hitters en route to recording a season-high 10.
“It’s going to happen,” Girardi said. “You’re going to run into guys that have good stuff and are on on certain nights. He did a really good job.”
The Yankees (24-14), held to three hits by Duffy and seven overall, nonetheless took two of three from the Royals and left town still in first place in the AL East.
The Yankees went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against Duffy, whose slider Starlin Castro described as “wicked.” For the game, they went 2-for-14 with RISP and stranded eight.
The Yankees did collect three hits in the ninth, scoring one run against Kelvin Herrera to avoid being shut out for the first time this season. The Royals (17-23), featuring the AL’s worst offense, managed only five hits, the big one a three-run homer by Mike Moustakas in the fifth off Jordan Montgomery that gave Duffy a 5-0 cushion.
Montgomery’s hold on the fifth starter job suddenly seems a bit less secure after the rookie allowed five runs, his most in seven starts. Montgomery (2-3, 4.81) was hurt by a double play not turned in the second inning, which led to two runs, then by the hanging slider in the fifth that Moustakas hammered for the three-run shot.
Montgomery allowed four hits and three walks. He struck out four.
“I’m honestly trying not to think of myself as a rookie and making that excuse,” the 24-year-old said. “I know I’m better than that, and I know I’m better than these outings.”
Montgomery has struck out 37 and walked 18 in 39 1/3 innings, with one of those walks preceding Moustakas’ bomb.
“I never walked people in the minor leagues, don’t know where this is coming from,” Montgomery said. “Maybe just giving the hitters a little too much credit. That and home runs. I never really had a problem with the long ball. Trying to learn from it. I know the fans expect more from me and I expect more from myself.”
Duffy retired the first nine he faced before Jacoby Ellsbury bunted for a single leading off the fourth. Gary Sanchez collected the Yankees’ second hit in the sixth, a sharp single to right.
After Duffy struck out two in a perfect second inning, the Royals took the lead in the bottom half.
Eric Hosmer walked to start the inning and, after Salvador Perez flied out, Jorge Bonifacio walked. Jorge Soler then bounced one to third, where Chase Headley started what looked as if it would be a 5-4-3 double play. Castro’s relay throw, however, skipped into first, where Chris Carter could not handle it, leaving runners at the corners with two outs.
Whit Merrifield followed with a liner to center for an RBI single and Drew Butera sent a single to right, where Judge was slow charging the ball. Judge’s throw to Sanchez was off line and Soler slid in to make it 2-0.
“I didn’t grip the ball very good,” Castro said, taking responsibility for the miscue. “That’s a play I usually make.”