Duffy flusters Rangers as Royals strike early

Duffy flusters Rangers as Royals strike early

KANSAS CITY -- Royals starter Danny Duffy has been on a roll lately and it has been the reverse for the Rangers. Both trends continued on a hot Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Duffy yielded one run in 6 2/3 strong innings to win his fifth straight decision in the Royals' 3-1 victory in the series opener. The American League West-leading Rangers have now lost 15 of its last 19 games, while Kansas City moved to 8 games back of the first-place Indians in the AL Central.

Duffy gave up four hits, two walks and struck out four. The biggest strikeout was getting Ian Desmond with the bases loaded and two out in the third inning. The lefty is now 5-0 with a 2.96 ERA in his last eight starts.

"He's just coming into his own," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's giving us six and seven, and eight strong innings every time he goes to the mound. He's keeping his pitch count down because he's throwing strikes with three quality pitches."

Right-hander Yu Darvish gave up three runs in six innings, giving the Rangers only their third quality start in the last 19 games. But he yielded runs in each of the first three innings.

"Solid start by Yu," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "I felt like we had some good at-bats. We just couldn't string them together."

Cheslor Crush-bert: Leading off the third with the Royals up 2-0, Cheslor Cuthbert tacked on to the lead with his ninth home run. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled 427 feet with an exit velocity of 104 mph. The homer also gave Cuthbert a hit in 16 of the 17 games the Royals have played this month. He is hitting .377 (23-for-61) in that span.

Cuthbert's solo home run

"Darvish is a really good pitcher," Yost said. "And to put some runs on the board early ... it's always nice."

Darvish racks up K's: Darvish struck out 11 in six innings of work. It's the 27th time in 88 career starts that Darvish struck out 10 or more batters in a game, second most in Rangers history. Nolan Ryan had 34. Since 1913, the only pitcher with more 10-plus strikeout games over their first 88 starts was Dwight Gooden. More >

Darvish escapes trouble

"I got the strikeouts when I need them," Darvish said. "That's the good thing about that."

An early surge: The Royals used their speed on Darvish to get a quick lead. Alcides Escobar led off the first with a single, stole second, went to third on catcher Bobby Wilson's throwing error and scored on Eric Hosmer's grounder. Alex Gordon drew a one-out walk in the second and also stole second. He scored on singles by Paulo Orlando and Whit Merrifield. Cuthbert's homer helped end a stretch which the Royals were outscored, 6-0, in the first three innings of their previous three games.

"It was nice to get out to an early lead," Hosmer said. "That's just kind of our game plan. We try to get off to an early lead, add on one-by-one from there and try to do whatever we can to get a lead to our bullpen."

Odor goes deep: Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor hit his 18th home run in the third inning off of Duffy. It was the first regular season home run allowed by Duffy to a left-hander since Jim Thome on Aug. 27, 2011. Duffy had gone 358 at-bats against left-handers before Odor hit his. He did give up a home run in the World Series to Michael Conforto.

Odor's solo home run

With his home run in the third inning, Cuthbert became the first Royals rookie with an 11-game hitting streak since Mike Moustakas did so in September 2011. Cuthbert has filled in as the everyday third baseman since Moustakas tore his right ACL in May.

Rangers: Left-hander Cole Hamels (10-2, 3.00 ERA) will start the middle game of this series on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. CT. Hamels allowed one unearned run in eight innings in a 4-1 victory over the Cubs in his last start on Sunday. He has one career start against the Royals and this will be his first appearance at Kauffman Stadium since the 2012 All-Star Game.

Royals: Right-hander Yordano Ventura (6-7, 4.97) will take the mound for the series rematch on Saturday. Ventura posted quality starts in each of his last two outings, but has not pitched in a win since his June 17 start against the Tigers.

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T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City and covered the Royals on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.