Danny Duffy is starting the 2021 season in impressive fashion for the Kansas City Royals, leading all of MLB in ERA (0.39). But it has nothing to do with pitch selection, spin rate or velocity.
Duffy will take the mound for Kansas City on Saturday in the second game of a three-game series in Minnesota against the Twins. Matt Shoemaker (1-2, 5.49 ERA) will take the hill for Minnesota.
The Twins hope to build on Friday’s 9-1 victory over the Royals.
Kansas City manager Mike Matheny says it’s the intangibles that have led Duffy to a 3-1 record and, more importantly, that MLB-leading ERA.
“I think he’s had a historic renovation to Danny Duffy,” Matheny said. “I’ll just continue to talk about, watching Danny on a daily basis, how he’s gone about his work.
“Just like with anything else, it’s how he’s preparing. We’ve been running the bases well, and it’s not a coincidence because we’ve been putting time and effort into base running. Danny has been trying to figure out things that have gotten in the way at times. He’s been proactive in trying to minimize those things that have been distractions.
“That’s how he works, how he prepares, going through his game plan. Then it comes down to execution and keeping his mind in the kind of shape to cooperate with his body. I’m extremely proud of how he’s going about his business.”
Duffy has allowed one earned run in 23 innings. His lone loss came when he gave up two unearned runs against Tampa Bay and the Royals mustered only one run. He’s struck out 27 and walked only six. In his last start, in Detroit, he pitched five scoreless innings.
“It has been fun to be effective,” Duffy said after that start. “I’ve been really inconsistent the last few years. I’ve had good stretches and really bad stretches. I think what I’m doing right now is just throwing everything with maximum intent. Believing in everything.
“I’ve got a manager that believes in me, two pitching coaches that are amazing. Our coaches top to bottom are great, building you up and really making you believe that what you’ve got in the tank is enough.”
Duffy is 8-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 26 career outings – 22 starts – against Minnesota.
Shoemaker has lost his last two starts, allowing seven earned runs in 8 2/3 innings. Control has been his problem, as he’s walked five and struck out just two in those outings. His most recent start, against the Pirates, was better, but he still took the loss because the offense sputtered. He allowed two earned runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss.
In five career starts against the Royals, Shoemaker is 0-3 with a 9.41 ERA.
“No one has to carry this burden alone,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of the struggling offense. “That’s not how this is ever going to work. I think the guys all have to understand we’re not going to get it all back on one swing or one at-bat.”
It appears that Shoemaker understands.
“That’s sometimes part of the game,” he said. “This game can be cyclical. We’re keeping our feet on the gas pedal. Things are going to turn. We’re all going to start playing better.”
They’ll just have to do it against one of the hottest pitchers in the game Saturday.
–Field Level Media