ST. PETERSBURG — It would not be a stretch to think the Rays' performance Monday was the result of having watched three teammates pack their bags, say their goodbyes and head to winning teams during the trade deadline shuffle that ended three hours before first pitch.
Or maybe Royals left-hander Danny Duffy was just that good.
Of course, it has been a while since the Rays were no-hit, so, well, you could argue they were due.
"It was a disappointing, frustrating day, emotional day, but I don't know if that's why we lost the game," Rays starter Chris Archer said. "I'd probably say that's not the reason we lost the game. That dude was on."
Duffy came within six outs of a no-hitter and set the Royals franchise record and a Tropicana Field record for strikeouts in a game by one pitcher with 16 in Kansas City's 3-0 victory.
Desmond Jennings, who returned from the disabled list after missing 25 games with a hamstring injury, doubled to leftfield to start the eighth inning and save the Rays from being no-hit for the sixth time in franchise history, a number that includes three perfect games.
"It wasn't looking too good for a little while, but he's a good pitcher," Jennings said. "You just got to take advantage of a mistake, I guess."
The mistake was a fastball that caught too much of the plate.
"I wanted to go up and in a little further. I think I kept it letter high," said Duffy, who spent the first six weeks of the season in the bullpen. "Kudos, man. You've got to tip your hat in that situation."
You couldn't fault the Rays if the trades that sent pitcher Matt Moore to the Giants, outfielder Brandon Guyer to the Indians and infielder Steve Pearce to Orioles took a little steam out of them before they took the field. After all, the players talked all weekend amid the trade rumors that they hoped the team would remain intact and they would get the chance next season to prove they are capable of being a playoff contender.
"Oh I think it was 100 percent Duffy," manager Kevin Cash said.
Duffy lost his bid for a perfect game when he walked Logan Forsythe to start the fourth. Other than Jennings, no Ray came close to getting a hit.
"He has just excellent stuff with three pitches, and he was banging strikes," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Had a tremendous fastball, a really good changeup and a good slider.
"He just had it all going."
It was the first loss in five games for the Rays (42-62). It was also their 11th loss in their past 12 games against the Royals (50-55).
Archer had the unlucky draw of facing Duffy. The Rays right-hander allowed six hits and three runs in 71/3 innings — certainly well enough to win on another night. But he took his major league-leading 15th loss of the season.
"He threw the ball really well. Really well," Cash said. "It's just unfortunate we couldn't get anything going to get some runs for him."