Danny Duffy and James Shields are having very different seasons so far, but both are experiencing new challenges this year. The first half of 2014’s schedule was tough on the Kansas City Royals‘ ace, but their highly-touted, up-and-coming lefty looks like he’s finally found his stride. Through 81 games of the most important Royals season in decades, Duffy is KC’s best starter.
While Shields struggles to find his mojo after a tough two-month stretch, Duffy is embracing his role and seemingly starting off the prime of his career. He’ll enter Game 1 with the Minnesota Twins on Monday with a 1.71 June ERA and a lot left to prove. Over his last five starts, Duffy went at least 5.2 innings and allowed no more than three runs, including two starts in which he didn’t allow a single run to score.
His 2.69 ERA is the best in the Royals’ rotation, and Shields is the only starter with more strikeouts per inning. Duffy’s effectiveness has helped KC avoid big losing streaks in the first half and brought him to a new milestone in his career. This is the longest he has succeeded at the big-league level without being injured. For the rest of this pivotal season, he’ll need to overcome the mounting pressure to stay healthy and productive. It’s make-or-break time for this extremely important Royal, and each start will be more stressful than the last. Finally, though, it looks like this growing star has learned to handle that kind of stress in order to win consistently.