KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Cole Hamels could have been frustrated or intimidated or annoyed by the effortless way Kansas City counterpart Danny Duffy was slicing up the Rangers lineup Saturday night.
Instead, he rather enjoyed it.
The quick innings allowed Hamels to get into a rhythm of his own, and the left-hander kept matching Duffy’s scoreless innings. It wasn’t long after Hamels departed that Texas finally broke through, with Shin-Soo Choo flaring a lazy fly ball down the left-field line with one out in the ninth for a 1-0 victory — the Rangers’ 12th straight over the Royals.
“Duffy is a tremendous pitcher,” said Hamels, who scattered four hits and a walk with five strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings. “He was making good pitches, getting good outs, and it was up to me to go out and match him. ... It was kind of nice to be able to do that.”
Duffy (5-6) began the ninth by giving up a weak single to Jonathan Lucroy. After pinch-runner Joey Gallo took second on a sacrifice bunt by Delino DeShields, Choo got just enough wood on Duffy’s 91st pitch to drop a fly ball in front of left fielder Alex Gordon.
“We needed to find a way to get a hit and we just didn’t. They did,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “even though it was a jam-shot that won the game for them.”
It wasn’t quite over, though.
After Jose Leclerc (2-2) got the final out in the eighth for Texas, he walked the leadoff man in the ninth. But Alex Claudio worked his way back from a 3-0 count to strike out Eric Hosmer, then got Salvador Perez to ground into a double play to earn his third save and second in as many nights.
“Great slow heartbeat by Claudio right there,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
Most of the game shook out just as expected: an entertaining duel between talented left-handers.
Hamels rolled in on a 13 1/3-inning scoreless streak and was 3-0 in three starts against the Royals since arriving in Texas. Duffy carried a shutout into the eighth when the teams met in April in Arlington, and he was amped up making his first home start since mid-May.
Texas was first to threaten when Mike Napoli led off the second with a triple, but Duffy set down the next three batters. The only other hit he allowed until the eighth was a one-out single by Carlos Gomez in the fifth, and Duffy picked him off first base.
“Everything was working,” he said.
Hamels waded through far more trouble in the third inning.
He started by walking Alcides Escobar, who hadn’t earned a free pass in 115 plate appearances. Hamels then gave up a single to Brandon Moss and a two-out single to Jorge Bonifacio, who was robbed of driving in the game’s first run when shortstop Elvis Andrus leaped up to knock down the ball.
With the bases loaded, Hamels calmly got Lorenzo Cain to ground out and end the inning.
“The guy has been doing it for a long time. It’s always fun to have matchups like that,” said Duffy, who allowed five hits and four strikeouts without a walk in 8 1/3 innings. “He did a heck of a job. They just came out on top. Somebody had to lose this game. It is what it is.”
Royals INF Cheslor Cuthbert (left wrist sprain) will head to Triple-A Omaha on a rehab assignment in the next day or two, manager Ned Yost said. Cuthbert has been out since June 28.
Rangers RHP Yu Darvish tries to stop a three-game losing streak when he takes the mound Sunday for the series finale. He’ll go against Royals RHP Ian Kennedy, who is 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA over his last five starts after going winless in his first 11 outings this season.