Moustakas’ blast backs Duffy as Royals sink Yankees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Danny Duffy knows what might happen if the Kansas City Royals continue their slide and are not in playoff contention by July.
There could be a fire sale and a dismantling of the 2015 World Series champions at the trade deadline.
Duffy picked up his first victory since April 14, and Mike Moustakas belted a three-run homer as the Royals defeated the New York Yankees 5-1 on Thursday night.
“We’re playing like we’re playing for our lives,” Duffy said. “We want to stick together. It’s a huge opportunity to contend for another ring.”
Duffy struck out a season-high 10 over seven scoreless innings. He walked two, gave up only three singles -- one was a bunt -- and threw 69 of 108 pitches for strikes.
“We’ve been in a little bit of a rut,” Duffy said.
Duffy’s slider put the Yankees in a rut.
“His slider was really good tonight,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He got a number of strikeouts on his slider. He seemed to command the ball pretty good tonight.”
Duffy (3-3) had been 0-3 with two no-decisions in his previous five starts.
Moustakas hit his team-leading 10th home run with Drew Butera and Alcides Escobar aboard in the fifth off rookie Jordan Montgomery (2-3). It was just Moustakas’ second homer off a left-hander this season.
“A slider that didn’t slide,” Montgomery said of his hanging first pitch to Moustakas. “I didn’t have the best command. Still, I knew they were going to be free swingers at the first pitch, and I left a couple of balls up.”
Kansas City reliever Mike Minor pitched a shutout eighth, his sixth consecutive scoreless outing.
The Yankees scored a run in the ninth off Kelvin Herrera with Didi Gregorius singling home Starlin Castro, who doubled leading off the inning.
The Yankees (24-14) took two of three from the Royals and remain 1 1/2 games in front of the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East. The Royals (17-23) went 7-8 at home while playing 15 of their past 19 games at Kauffman Stadium.
Kansas City took advantage of a double play that wasn’t turned to score a pair of runs in the second inning.
Eric Hosmer began the inning with a walk. After Salvador Perez flied out to right, Montgomery walked Jorge Bonifacio. Jorge Soler hit what should have been an inning-ending, double-play grounder with Bonifacio out at second, but first baseman Chris Carter dropped the low relay throw from Castro.
Whit Merrifield won the battle of South Carolina alums with a run-producing single to center off Montgomery. Butera singled home Soler with the second run of the inning.
In the fifth, Merrifield reached on a bunt single to lead off the inning but was out on Butera’s fielder’s choice grounder. Escobar drew a walk for only the fifth time this season. Moustakas homered on Montgomery’s next pitch into the Yankees’ bullpen.
Montgomery was replaced after five innings, having allowed five runs on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
“I’ve never walked people in the minor leagues,” Montgomery said. “I don’t know where this is coming from, maybe giving the hitters too much credit. That and home runs. I’ve never had a problem with the long ball. I know the fans expect more from me and I expect more from myself. I’ve got to do better.”
Duffy struck out the side on 12 pitches in the first.
“He kept his pitch count down and really gave us seven strong innings,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
NOTES: CF Lorenzo Cain, who left in the fifth inning Wednesday due to a sore wrist, was back in the Royals’ lineup but went 0-for-4. ... Yankees OF Brett Gardner was not in the starting lineup. He flied out as a pinch hitter to end the game. ... Royals RHP Ian Kennedy in all likelihood will come off the disabled list Saturday and start at Minnesota. He went on the disabled list May 5 with a right hamstring strain. ... The Yankees open a series Friday in Tampa Bay with RHP Luis Severino set to start. The Rays will counter with RHP Erasmo Ramirez. ... The Royals open a 10-game trip Friday in Minnesota, starting RHP Nathan Karns. The Twins will start LHP Hector Santiago in the opener.