KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This was like crossing Dickens with baseball on a Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium: a mismatch that many expected but few expected. (And, really, how often do you see English Lit linked to the national pastime?)
Think that’s weak? You should have watched what the Royals mustered against rookie lefty Andrew Albers in a 7-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
Here was a pitching matchup — a tale of two pitchers? (yes, last one) — that saw the red-hot Royals sending their ace, James Shields, out to face a 27-year-old in his major-league debut.
Well, the Twins simply battered Shields while coasting to an easy victory behind a magnificent performance from Albers over 8 1/3 innings. He exited after yielding a single and a walk in the ninth.
Casey Fien immediately loaded the bases by walking Billy Butler before ending the game when Alex Gordon grounded into a double play. The Royals lost for just the second time in their last 14 games.
“I know stuff like this happens,” Butler said. “Confidence isn’t going anywhere in here. You face a guy for the first time … you’ve got to tip your hat to him. It’s his debut. He made his pitches.
“You don’t see that out of Juego (Shields) usually either. It was just bad night. You knew one of these was coming eventually. I think the telltale on this one is to see how we bounce back from this (on Wednesday).”
Shields (6-8) gave up seven runs in six innings in what easily marked his worst start of the year. He surrendered three homers — including two in the first inning — committed a throwing error on a pickoff and balked home a run.
“Nothing went right,” he said. “But on the flip side, you’ve got a young kid on the other side who pitched a phenomenal game.
“Overall, he did a pretty good job tonight of handling our bats, especially the way we swung it (Monday). Sometimes, those games are going to happen. Hopefully, we’ll move on and get a win (Wednesday).”
This was a clunker of the first order and perhaps, as Butler suggested, it was long overdue. Their only loss in their previous 13 games came Friday in extra innings against the Mets in New York.
Still … this was, ah, unexpected.
The Royals offered little more than token resistance against Albers, a Canadian promoted last Friday from Triple-A Rochester, where he was 9-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 22 starts.
“It was special, no question,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words, but it was special. To be able to go out and have that kind of performance in your debut, unfortunately it’s probably not going to get much better from there.
“So I’m really going to enjoy this high and really enjoy tonight.”
Duffy back in blue — Royals pitcher Danny Duffy is returning to a big-league mound. For one night, anyway.
Duffy will start against the Twins on Wednesday. He will officially be recalled Wednesday from Triple-A Omaha to take Wade Davis’ spot in the rotation. Davis is on leave after his stepbrother, Dustin Huguley, died Saturday in Florida after collapsing at a softball game.
Once viewed as the club’s most advanced pitching prospect, Duffy will make his first major-league start since undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery in June 2012.
“I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt,” said Duffy, who returned to the Royals’ clubhouse Tuesday. “It takes a little more to maintain between starts, but I don’t feel soreness, and it’s the first time I could say that since I was 17. It’s all going really well. The elbow is really good.”
But Royals manager Ned Yost indicated Duffy’s stay with the major-league team would likely be short. Asked if Duffy would stick around beyond one start, Yost responded, “Probably not.”
Duffy replaces Davis, who has a 5.42 ERA in 21 starts this season.
“We want to see where he’s at,” Yost said of Duffy. “He’s throwing (well) in Triple-A. We thought it would be a good opportunity to gauge where he’s at in his comeback.”
Duffy, 24, who will be pitching on regular four days rest, compiled a 3-0 record with a 4.21 earned run average in 10 appearances in Omaha, eight of them starts. He has thrown particularly well as of late, allowing one run or fewer in five of his past six outings.