Kansas City Royals

Royals fail to snap unpleasant series streak in 3-2 loss to Detroit

An ugly Kansas City streak still might end this week ... but it’ll have to wait until Thursday in Omaha.

The Royals — with a chance to win their first series in nearly two months — wasted a strong outing from starter Danny Duffy in a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.

“You just try to find ways to score some runs to make those good starts count for something,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “ ... Danny was really, really good.”

KC’s offense continued its recent scuffles, though, striking out 10 times while pushing only single runs across in the third and fifth.

The Royals, who have split the first two games against Detroit, will continue to chase that elusive series win Thursday. KC hasn’t won a set in any of its last 16 tries, with the third and final game against Detroit coming at TD Ameritrade Park — home of the College World Series.

Since sweeping Cleveland from April 12-14, the Royals are 0-14-2 in series while continuing an early pace toward a 100-loss season.

Detroit pushed the go-ahead run around in the eighth, as normally reliable reliever Jake Diekman failed to hold a 2-2 tie.

JaCoby Jones walked, then Christin Stewart followed with a hard liner that shot through the legs of Royals first baseman Ryan O’Hearn for a double down the line.

“I hung a slider, and he hit it to right field,” Diekman said. “If it was a decent slider, it could have been different, but it was a terrible pitch.”

Nicholas Castellanos walked to load the bases, and though Diekman struck out Miguel Cabrera, Brandon Dixon followed with a deep sacrifice fly to right to give the Tigers a 3-2 advantage.

Joe Jimenez and Shane Greene each delivered scoreless innings to secure the win.

Jorge Soler provided the run production for the Royals early.

In the third, he turned on a 2-2 changeup, sending a 108-mph shot bounding a foot from the top of the wall in right for a two-out double that scored Whit Merrifield from third.

Soler came through in the clutch again two innings later, lining a two-out single to right to bring in Alex Gordon from second while tying the score at 2.

“Really picked us up big time,” Yost said of Soler. “He was a majority of our offense.”

He didn’t get enough help, though, as the Royals left 11 on base while going 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Duffy, meanwhile, recovered from a rough start to give the Royals a quality effort. He walked his first two batters — eight balls on nine pitches — before settling in for his longest outing of the year.

“I just didn’t feel like I could put the ball where I wanted to those first two hitters,” Duffy said. “After that, I dug the mound out a little bit and my landing spot was a little better. I felt good the rest of the way.”

Duffy went seven strong, allowing two runs with two walks and seven strikeouts. One of his biggest weapons was his changeup, as he nearly tripled his season usage of it.

“I haven’t had it in a long time, but we’ve been working really hard in the bullpen to try to figure that out,” Duffy said. “Kudos to (pitching coach) Cal (Eldred) for sticking with me on that, trying to instill the confidence, because it’s a good pitch when it’s right.”

With a fresh bullpen, Yost opted to take Duffy out after 99 pitches through seven innings. Diekman couldn’t hold the lead, though, and the Royals offense couldn’t muster a rally.

It all sets up a rubber match Thursday.

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.