CLEVELAND — Danny Duffy pitched six innings of two-hit ball to beat a longtime nemesis and Whit Merrifield drove in all of Kansas City’s runs with a homer and sacrifice fly, leading the Royals over Cleveland 3-0 on Monday.
Cleveland played its home opener in front of fans for the first time since 2019. The announced attendance of 8,914 — 30% of ballpark capacity was permitted – was a nice change from last season, when fans couldn’t attend due to the COVID-19 pandemic and health and safety protocols.
Duffy (1-0) came in with 12 career losses against Cleveland- his most against any team. But the left-hander was in control from the outset and beat them for the fifth time.
Scott Barlow pitched two perfect innings and Jesse Hahn put two on in the ninth before Royals first baseman Carlos Santana, who signed with the club as a free agent this winter after 10 seasons in Cleveland, made a diving stop on Eddie Rosario‘s smash to start a double play.
Hahn then retired Franmil Reyes on a hard comebacker that caromed off the right-hander to complete Kansas City’s three-hit shutout and get the save.
Duffy has won three of his last four starts against Cleveland since losing eight straight, and he’s pitched 11 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings in his past two outings versus Cleveland.
Merrifield connected for his third homer in the second inning off Cleveland starter Logan Allen (0-1). Merrifield added his sacrifice fly in the seventh.
A three-run deficit was too much for Cleveland, which has scored two runs or less in three of their first four games.
The last time Cleveland played in front of fans at Progressive Field was on Sept. 22, 2019, a 10-1 win over Philadelphia.
“We missed the fans maybe more than they missed being here,” manager Terry Francona said. “Playing in front of empty ballparks, it was better than not playing – don’t get me wrong – but having people here will really be welcomed.”
More than a dozen protesters gathered outside the ballpark to voice their displeasure at Cleveland’s delay in changing their name. Cleveland owner Paul Dolan announced in December the ballclub will be dropping their team name, which has been in place since 1915, in the future.
That’s not soon enough for Native American groups of have decried the name as being racist.
“It’s absolutely disappointing, disheartening, but not surprising,” said Jeff Pierce, president of People Not Mascots. “They’ve been saying they’re going to do this for the last 30 plus years, never been done. I’ll believe it when I see it.”
THE BEAT GOES ON
With longtime drummer and ballpark fixture John Adams recovering from health issues, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney filled in and pounded a steady beat when Cleveland batted.
Carney, who first attended Cleveland games as a little boy, said it was his first “live” gig since Black Keys’ last show in January 2020.
ON THE OTHER SIDE
It didn’t take long for Santana to make a strong impression on the Royals, who signed him to a three-year, $17.5 million deal.
“Just because a kid changes uniforms, that doesn’t mean it’s going to change the way he behaves himself or acts,” Francona said. “I certainly can’t root for him to beat us, but we’re not any less fond of him because he’s in a Royals uniform.”
Cleveland right-hander Emmanuel Clase unleashed a 101.2 mph fastball on his first pitch in Sunday’s win at Detroit. It was the fastest pitch recorded by a Cleveland pitcher since 2008, when pitches first began being tracked regularly.
Following an off day, Cy Young winner Shane Bieber will make his second start of 2021 against the Royals, who have not yet named a starter. Bieber struck out 12 in his season debut last week at Detroit.