KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Danny Duffy did exactly what the Kansas City Royals wanted him to do.
The left-hander only allowed one run over four innings in a spot start Saturday night, keeping his team in the game. But his offense was unable to break through against Detroit counterpart Drew Smyly, and the Tigers rolled once Duffy left the game to a 9-2 victory.
Duffy was taking the place of injured left-hander Bruce Chen, and was on a pitch count after moving back into the rotation from the bullpen. So he was lifted after just 75 pitches.
“He danced into trouble and danced out of it for the most part,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He left the ball game down 1-to-nothing. I thought he did a nice job.”
Just not quite as nice as Smyly, another former reliever.
After Rick Porcello and the Tigers bullpen retired the final 18 hitters in an 8-2 victory the previous night, Smyly (2-1) retired the first four he faced. After a issuing a walk to Alex Gordon, the former reliever then retired the next six in a dominant performance.
Smyly wound up allowing two hits and two walks before giving way to Joba Chamberlain, who threw a perfect eighth. Phil Coke allowed two runs in the ninth to lose the shutout.
“They played good pitching and good defense. They made a lot of good plays. Give them credit,” the Royals’ Alex Gordon said. “Smyly did a good job. When we did put a good swing on it, it seemed like they made a pretty good play.”
Nick Castellanos drove in three runs the Tigers, the first off Duffy (1-2) and two more off the Royals’ bullpen. That was it until the ninth, when Detroit tacked on six more runs, the highlight a three-run shot by Torii Hunter.
The win was the Tigers’ fifth straight over Kansas City.
Kansas City played without catcher Salvador Perez, who was given the night off after fouling a pitch off his shin in the series opener. Yost said he expects the All-Star to be back in the lineup Sunday — though they sure could have used his bat in this one.
The only hits the Royals could muster off Smyly came on Eric Hosmer’s double in the fourth and a single in the fifth by Danny Valencia, who was thrown out trying to reach second.
“Smyly was outstanding,” Ausmus said. “I think he had nine days since his last start. Pitch count wasn’t a factor. I just decided he had done his job.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers took advantage of Duffy’s erratic ways.
The left-hander walked the bases loaded in the fourth inning, and Castellanos followed with a liner to left that Alex Gordon caught on the run. But rather than throw home immediately, the Gold Glove winner hesitated, and that gave Miguel Cabrera time to score.
“My first reaction was to throw it to second. After that it was too late to get him,” Gordon said. “I tried to make a run-in throw, but I was off balance. My first instinct was I saw Victor off bag at second and I was going to try to double him up and get out of the inning.”
In the sixth, reliever Louis Coleman allowed a double to Cabrera and intentionally walked Victor Martinez, who has been hot all series. Herrera came in and Castellanos ripped a double to right, driving in both runs while ending a 0-for-15 slump.
That was plenty of support for Smyly, who made 63 appearances out of the bullpen last season and two this season, but who may be firmly establishing himself as the fifth starter.
The victory was Smyly’s first as a starter since beating the Royals on July 6, 2012.
“He was throwing strikes,” Ausmus said. “He seemed to be using all his pitches, which is important as a starter. He pitched really well.”
NOTES: Royals RHP Aaron Brooks made his big league debut, giving up all six runs in the ninth. ... Tigers RHP Robbie Ray is expected to be promoted from Triple-A Toledo to start Tuesday against Houston in his big league debut. ... Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez (cut middle finger) had no problems throwing Friday, Ausmus said. Sanchez went on the DL April 27. ... LHP Jason Vargas starts Sunday for Kansas City. RHP Justin Verlander starts for Detroit.