What do you want first? The good news or the bad news? The good is pretty good; the bad might — might — really be terrible.
Here goes: The Royals roused themselves in the late innings Sunday afternoon for a 9-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox after taking the lead on Johnny Giavotella’s two-run pinch double with two outs in the seventh.
But promising left-hander Danny Duffy, who flashes tantalizing potential, exited the game in the first inning because of renewed elbow problems. He is scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam today in Kansas City.
“I felt a little tightness on the inner part of my elbow,” Duffy said. “I need to find out what it is. I haven’t felt it in the last couple of starts. I did today after that second pitch. I didn’t feel it at all in the bullpen.
“We’ll just have to see what it is. I’m not worried about it, but there is cause for concern. Two years ago, I would have been a mess.”
Duffy missed a start in late April, but did not go on the disabled list, because of elbow tightness. He returned May 3 and worked 51/3 innings in a 4-3 victory over the Yankees before going 41/3 innings on May 8 in a no-decision against the Red Sox.
Manager Ned Yost characterized Duffy’s ailment as “medial left elbow tightness,” and said it was “the same thing he was dealing with before.” Yost also said Duffy wanted to stay in the game.
“As soon as he said it was his elbow,” Yost said, “I said, ‘That’s it.’ I’m not taking any chances. You start getting tightness in your elbow, it’s not a good sign. There’s something in there, and we need to find out what it is.”
The day could have been worse because the Royals then spent much of the afternoon flailing weakly at Chicago pitcher Phil Humber, whom they let get away through a waiver claim after the 2010 season.
The Chicago bullpen wasn’t nearly as effective. The Royals struck for two runs in the seventh on Giavotella’s pinch double and one in the eighth on Jeff Francoeur’s first homer of the season before erupting for six runs in the ninth inning.
“Our dugout was dead before Gio got up there,” Francoeur said. “We hadn’t got close to Humber. You see him throw that perfect game. Then he has two starts when he wasn’t on but, today, that slider was as good as I’ve ever seen it.”
Everything changed after Matt Thornton, 1-3, replaced Humber with two outs in the seventh and a runner at first. A walk to Jarrod Dyson and a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third.
Giavotella’s slicing drive on a 1-2 fastball stayed just fair down the right-field line for a two-run double – and his first hit in nine at-bats since his recall last Wednesday from Class AAA Omaha.
“I wasn’t sure it was (fair),” he said. “I thought it was going to close. I was glad to be a spark. We couldn’t score against Humber. He was keeping us at bay, so I’m glad I was able to get a big knock for us. “
The Royals extended their lead to 3-1 when Francoeur ended his season-long homerless drought with a 409-foot drive against Nate Jones with one out in the eighth inning. Then came a six-run ninth, the Royals’ biggest inning of the season, for lots of dessert.
“Phil came out and pitched great,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “On the other hand, we let it get away from us.”
Right-hander Luis Mendoza, 2-2, positioned the Royals for the comeback by yielding just one run in 52/3 innings after replacing Duffy. Yost used five relievers over the final 22/3 innings in securing the victory.
“I’ve got to be ready at any time,” said Mendoza, who made four starts before shifting to the bullpen after Felipe Paulino returned from the disabled list. “As a long reliever, you’ve got to be ready in the first inning. I’m just trying to get my confidence going.”
The victory enabled the Royals, 13-20, to win the three-game series and climb within 41/2 games of first-place Cleveland in the American League Central Division. They are also 10-6 since ending their 12-game losing streak.
“We won two out of three here,” Francoeur said, “and we’ve gotten on a little roll here between the last road trip, last homestand and now. Hopefully, we can continue this and get back to .500.”
Back to Duffy.
He lasted just three batters — 13 pitches — before catcher Humberto Quintero spotted a problem and yelled to the dugout, which brought trainer Nick Kenney and manager Ned Yost to the mound.
“I think Q did the right thing,” Duffy said. “I felt it on the second pitch of the game, a 95-mile-an-hour heater. It was that extension. It wasn’t from the acceleration. We’ll have to see what it is.”