Cold, dreary and wet. Well, hey, that’s the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on most nights. But the rain made Tuesday night especially miserable for nearly all concerned.
Not for Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, though. He turned in six masterful innings in his season debut, and the Royals provided sufficient support for a 3-0 victory over the A’s in a game shortened to seven innings.
For Duffy, it seems, it’s always beautiful in the East Bay. Three of his five career victories have come at the Coliseum, but this was his best effort yet and, just maybe, a hint of things to come.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with (the Coliseum),” Duffy said. “This year, I think I’m going to be pretty consistent everywhere we go. I’m pretty excited.”
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Duffy, 1-0, permitted just one hit while striking out eight and working around four walks in a 103-pitch performance that completed a terrific first cycle for the Royals through their rotation: five runs in 29 innings for a 1.55 ERA.
Aaron Crow worked a scoreless seventh inning before the rain, which delayed the game’s start by 43 minutes, returned with two outs in the top of the eighth. Crow got credit for his first career save when the game was called.
“I didn’t think the conditions were that bad,” he said. “It wasn’t raining hard when I was out there. The mound stayed together pretty well. So I didn’t have any problem.”
But the rain intensified with the Royals at bat in the eighth, and the umpires signaled for the tarp after Eric Hosmer lost control of his bat on a swinging third strike. Crew chief Jim Joyce waited 1 hour, 6 minutes before calling the game at 1:07 a.m. Central time.
“They needed to stop it when they did,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin conceded. “You could barely see the outfielders when it was called.”
Duffy never permitted fewer than two earned runs in any of his 20 previous big-league starts, but he allowed just two runners to get as far as second base in his six innings — and he picked off one of those.
“He’s only going to get better,” said center fielder Mitch Maier, who provided the game’s final run on a homer in the seventh.
“Last year, we saw glimpses. The more he pitches and learns the league, how to control his stuff and pitch — he’s only going to get better. He’s got unbelievable stuff. Everyone knew that. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning everything.”
Maier entered the game in the fourth inning after Lorenzo Cain suffered a strained left groin while making a fabulous catch two innings earlier that saved at least one run in what at the time was a scoreless game.
Duffy issued a one-out walk to Collin Cowgill before Daric Barton sent a drive deep into the right-center gap. Cain made a highlight reel catch after a long run before caroming into the wall.
Cain then pivoted and made a strong throw to second baseman Chris Getz, whose relay doubled up Cowgill at first. Cain suffered the injury when he slammed into the wall.
“It’s just a slight (strain),” manager Ned Yost said. “It’s a grade one. We took him out because it was wet out there. We planned on giving him the day off (today) anyway. We look to have him back in there Friday (for the home opener against Cleveland).”
The only hit against Duffy was a one-out double by Cliff Pennington in the third, but Duffy then picked off Pennington at second — and it wasn’t close, either.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Duffy said, “but I left a couple of pitches up. I walked four guys. That’s something I’m going to have to figure out a little better…but it was just a great night overall. It’s hard not to smile after that.”
Oakland starter Graham Godfrey, 0-1, pitched well, too. He weakened only in a two-run fourth inning before exiting after the sixth.
Maier welcomed reliever Jerry Blevins with a leadoff homer in the seventh, which extended the lead to 3-0. It was Maier’s first homer in 165 at-bats extending to Aug. 29, 2010 — yes, 2010 — against the Indians.
“I wasn’t trying to do it,” Maier shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
The Royals opened the scoring with a two-run fourth inning that broke a pair of futile streaks: 21 innings without scoring this season in a night game; and 25 innings without scoring at the Coliseum.
Billy Butler led off with a double past third before moving to third when Jeff Francoeur blooped a single into right. Mike Moustakas followed with a drive to deep center that, initially, Yeonis Cespedes appeared to run down.
But Cespedes couldn’t hold the ball on an attempted over-the-shoulder catch. The result was an RBI double that scored Butler and moved Francoeur to third.
The night-time scoreless streak covered last Friday’s 5-0 loss to the Angels in the season opener, Monday’s 1-0 loss to the A’s and the first three innings of Tuesday’s game.
Maier batted for Cain and lined out to short, but Humberto Quintero followed with a sacrifice fly to right for a 2-0 lead.