LOS ANGELES — When the pressure and stress of wins, losses and playoff chases are gone, the focus of a professional athlete turns to something else.
Sometimes that focus is spent on memories of a game in a special place on a particular day.
Danny Duffy will remember this date: July 9, 2017. For on that day, more than a few special memories were born.
Although after Sunday's game Duffy was dwelling on a loss to the best team in baseball — against someone he deems "the best pitcher of all time" — he may one day look back on it fondly, though he's not there quite yet.
Duffy spent his Sunday, the last game before the All-Star break, pitching in a stadium he visited as a child, against the team he cheered for, in front of his parents Dan and Deanna and 41,000 other baseball fans, some even wearing his No. 41 Royals jersey at Chavez Ravine.
Duffy took the mound against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Dodger Stadium.
Duffy's opposing pitcher just so happened to be Clayton Kershaw. Though Kershaw and the Dodgers' formidable lineup had all of Duffy's attention on Sunday, he did relish in the opportunity in front of him — pitching in Dodger Stadium for the first time — earlier in the series.
"I gave myself that opportunity the first day we got here. I just went out to center field and just looked around and looked at those seats I sat in when I was a kid," said Duffy, just moments after his Kansas City Royals fell to the Dodgers 5-2. "I thought about a homer (former Dodgers catcher) Mike Piazza hit all the way out of the stadium. I was sitting up in the reserves for it, in the blue section. It was kind of cool to take me back.
"But once it's time to toe the rubber all that stuff goes to the wayside. I'll always cherish those moments but my job is to go out there and get outs."
Duffy, the left-handed pitcher and 2007 Cabrillo High grad, made his second start since his return from the disabled list. His performance was good, but not quite enough to top Kershaw, who threw a complete game on just 99 pitches while striking out 13 Royals.
Duffy lasted seven innings, allowing five earned runs while striking out nine batters and walking none. Duffy's kryptonite on Sunday was the home run ball. He give up a pair of homers to Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. A third one came from Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes.
Still, it was definitely a promising outing for the former Conquistadore as Duffy works his way back from an oblique injury that forced him to miss all of June. Now Duffy has time to get right with the All-Star break.
Duffy said he plans on spending most of his time off in Santa Barbara with a trip or two to Lompoc before the Royals (44-43) pick back up on Friday against Texas in Kansas City.
"I have a lot people here, but I got about an hour's worth of treatment right now," Duffy said after throwing 102 pitches against the Dodgers. "I gotta tell them that I can't go say hey. But I'll see them in about three hours. It'll be cool. It's gonna be nice to get back to the 805."
Duffy's day, though, wasn't all about his performance on the hill. Playing in a National League stadium, Duffy also had to face Kershaw at the plate as Kansas City's No. 9 hitter.
And, somehow, Duffy was able to pick up his second career hit, with this one coming on a soft chopper up the middle against Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and the 2014 NL MVP.
"Just tie your hands together and give you a blindfold," Duffy said of his approach against Kershaw. "I was pleased... It'd be a lot cooler if I wouldn't have given it up today. Down the road I'm sure I'll be able to look back on this and tell my grand kids that I got a hit off the best pitcher of all time."