The Royals believed wholeheartedly that Homer Bailey still had gas in the tank and miles left on his arm. They signed him during the offseason to provide a veteran presence to their starting rotation and as well as a potential trade chip in July.
They were right on all accounts, and Wednesday in Oakland, Bailey pitched masterfully against the Royals. He recorded a season-high 11 strikeouts while holding his former team scoreless through seven innings.
Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, a California native, matched Bailey scoreless inning for scoreless inning, stifling the Athletics’ offense through seven shutout frames and striking out six.
A former Athletics pitcher now with the Royals threw the pitch that decided the outcome.
Royals right-hander Jesse Hahn allowed a two-out RBI double to Mark Canha on a sharply hit ball on the ground that slipped just inside the first-base bag to hand the Royals a 1-0 loss in 11 innings in front of an announced 16,714 in the finale of a three-game set at the Oakland Coliseum.
Hahn, the sixth pitcher of the game for the Royals, walked two (one intentionally) and struck out two in the 11th inning.
The win gave the Athletics (92-61) the series two games to one. The Royals (56-97) will continue their road trip with a four-game set in Minnesota starting Thursday night.
“Homer is much more consistent with his split now,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of the two starters. “He just doesn’t miss against lefties. He’s just unbelievable. Curveball was good. Spotted his fastball. I didn’t see him miss a location all day long. For me, the same was for Danny. I thought this was one of Danny’s better games that he’s pitched all year long.”
Bailey, who the Royals traded to the Athletics on July 14 in exchange for minor-league infielder Kevin Merrell, entered the day 6-2 with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 11 starts since the trade.
The right-hander allowed just three hits, two by Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, and the only walk he issued was an intentional walk to Gordon in the seventh inning.
The Royals best scoring chance against Bailey came in the seventh. Jorge Soler — now the fifth player in franchise history with a 30-home run, 30-double, 100-RBI season — doubled with one out. After Hunter Dozier struck out, Bailey intentionally walked Gordon.
Ryan O’Hearn hit a sinking liner to left field, but Athletics outfielder Chad Pinder made a diving catch to keep at least one run off the board with two men on base.
Royals batters struck out 19 times in the game, while the Athletics stuck out 12.
In the top of the 11th, the Royals loaded the bases with two outs and Soler up. Athletics reliever J.B. Wendelken struck out Soler and the game remained scoreless.
“(The game) was just dominated by pitching and strikeouts,” Gordon said. “Duffy and our bullpen did plenty for us. We just didn’t come through. We just didn’t put anything in action on offense. The offense takes a lot of credit for that loss. The pitching staff did their job. We just couldn’t come up with anything.”
Duffy, who got his first major-league win in the Coliseum on June 14, 2011, allowed two hits and walked one in arguably his best outing of the season.
Athletics leadoff hitter Marcus Semien had the only two hits against Duffy.
“He took the ball and had a heck of a game today,” Duffy said of matching up with Bailey. “I think he punched out 11. That back and forth is always a lot of fun. You live for games like that. It was a lot fun playing baseball today. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come out with a win.”
A native of Lompoc, California, Duffy had several close family members in attendance for the start in his home state, including both of his parents.
Duffy has now allowed two runs in his last 19 innings (three starts). He’s struck out 17, walked seven and allowed eight hits during that stretch.
“I just want to keep building on that,” Duffy said. “I feel really good right now. I want to continue to build on what I’ve taken from the last few starts. (Jorge Lopez) threw a heck of a game yesterday. I just kinda wanted to follow him and keep going how we’ve been going. He was really impressive to watch last night, and I had some confidence in my fastball as a result of watching him do what he did.”
Left-hander Mike Montgomery (3-9, 4.70) will start for the Royals in Minnesota Thursday night, while right-hander Kyle Gibson (13-7, 4,76) will start for the Twins.