Duffey toughens up with 8-inning gem

Twins righty flirts with perfection, secures job in rotation

Duffey toughens up with 8-inning gem

NEW YORK -- Tyler Duffey walked past Aaron Hicks and couldn't help but give his former teammate a hard time after a sixth-inning double down the right-field line broke up his perfect-game bid.

"Why couldn't you just swing through that one like the first one?" Duffey said he told Hicks.

The Yankees had been doing a lot of whiffing against Duffey throughout a stellar eight-inning performance in Minnesota's 7-1 victory in Sunday's series finale, but a changeup he left up ended his quest for the record books.

Duffey's dominant start

"So awesome to go out and do that and give us the chance to win, finally, and pitch deep into a game," he said.

Duffey, 25, is known among Twins fans for letting his frustrations mount, with one challenge leading to another in a sort of domino effect. But this time, even when he lost his bid at history, Duffey kept his cool.

"I'm sure it's looming somewhere in there, hopefully in the depths and not in the forefront, and you go out there and continue to pitch, which he did a nice job of," said Twins manager Paul Molitor.

In the eighth, after losing his bid at a shutout on Mark Teixeira's home run, Duffey bounced back and struck out the side to close out a season-high eight innings -- though he did pound his glove in frustration as he walked off the mound.

Duffey had entered the game amid a brutal stretch, having allowed at least four earned runs in seven consecutive starts, and this start might have determined whether he would remain in the Twins' rotation. He was able to tune that pressure out and focus on delivering his best outing of the season.

"If you're thinking [about pitching for your spot] while you're out on the mound, you probably shouldn't be here anyway," Duffey said. "It's one of those things where it's Yankee Stadium and you're pitching against the Yankees. If you're not up and ready for that, you probably shouldn't be here."

"You put too much exterior pressure on yourself about pitching to save your spot, that can be more of a distraction than helpful," Molitor said. "I think he was able to separate pretty well."

After tweaking his mechanics through some film work with interim pitching coach Eric Rasmussen following his last start, Duffey felt much more confident in his command of all three of his pitches, and his evolution throughout the game was particularly impressive.

In his first trip through the order, he focused on throwing his fastball low over the plate and inducing ground balls, but in his second and third times through the rotation, he mixed in many more curveballs as his out pitch. All eight of his strikeouts came in the fourth inning or later, with Duffey seemingly getting more dominant as the game progressed.

"My fastball location was really good today," he said. "That was the big difference, if anything. Just getting ahead 0-1, 0-2 just on fastballs, and I didn't even throw the off-speed until I needed it. You've just got to get ahead and stay ahead."

In the end, Duffey's work again resulted in a domino effect -- but this time, a good one. Better mechanics led to increased command, which led to better results, which led to his rotation spot being safe for now.

"A lot of things are somewhat obvious when you're trying to think of what to do [with Duffey] going forward, but I think that you could say that he earned another opportunity out there," Molitor said.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.