KANSAS CITY, Mo. — We’ve been talking — and writing — about how concerning the Orioles’ ballyhooed offense has been for most of this season.
Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals and left-hander Danny Duffy, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning, brings home that point with obvious emphasis.
It’s not that Duffy wasn’t good; he was excellent. And it’s not that he doesn’t have talent; he always has been highly regarded, but he has battled injuries and questionable control over the years.
But Duffy hasn’t exactly been a strike-thrower in the big leagues. He entered the night with a tremendous 1.96 ERA in eight games (two starts). But in that span, he had walked 10 batters in 18 innings.
And the Orioles, of course, didn’t take advantage of the few times Duffy wasn’t locating with his pitches. In the fourth inning, Manny Machado was up 3-0 in the count and swung at the next pitch, popping it up. Adam Jones followed and worked a 3-1 count — meaning six of Duffy's eight previous pitches had missed the strike zone — and he ended up fouling a ball off and then grounding out.
I understand the Orioles are an aggressive hitting team, and it’s hard to change that on an individual basis. But when a guy like Duffy is obviously dealing, a little more patience certainly would help, especially when he has a track record of issuing walks.
The Orioles also had closer Greg Holland on the ropes in the ninth, putting runners at first and third with one out, but Jones struck out when a solid fly ball would have tied the game. After a walk by Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz struck out to end it.
Afterward, Jones said he understood the criticism.
“We are going to go out there and swing the bats,” Jones said. “We got [an] opportunity in the ninth. It was frustrating. I’m pretty sure there are people telling us how to do our jobs, but, hey, it’s a tough game and they have a good closer in Holland.”
** Bud Norris ended up taking the loss, but he definitely showed me something again with the way he kept the Royals off the board after giving up one run in the first. It can’t be easy to pitch against a guy throwing a perfect game — especially considering how quickly Duffy was ending innings — and Norris responded.
After eight starts, Norris has lowered his ERA to 3.58 this season. He has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his eight starts. It would have been six, but he served up a two-run homer Monday in the eighth inning of a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
** One thing lost in Saturday’s game is that Tommy Hunter entered in the bottom of the eighth and induced a groundout by Billy Butler, the only batter he faced.
Butler was also the first batter Hunter has faced since allowing consecutive home runs Tuesday to blow a save and ultimately lose, at least temporarily, his closer gig.
Here’s what acting manager John Russell, who was filling in for Buck Showalter for the day, had to say about Hunter: “Tommy’s good,” Russell said. “He ran into a little bit of trouble there [recently], but he’s a big part of our bullpen, and getting him back on track, that’s what we need from him.”