They’re men, not machines.
The members of the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen have been so good for so long that a couple of hiccups like those of the last two nights seem almost unfathomable in the eyes of their fans.
The Royals’ bullpen success rate has been insane and hopefully fans realize what they have accomplished has been way beyond the norm.
Still, the reaction at The K Thursday when Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined to give up six runs in the final two innings to the slumping Los Angeles Angels was nothing short of disbelief. It was like watching Kansas basketball fans if the Jayhawks would give away a 20-point lead in the final 10 minutes to lose at Allen Field House.
In Davis’ defense, he hadn’t pitched in a week because of a bad back. He entered Thursday’s game with a 5-1 lead and even though he gave up two runs, Royals fans were not concerned because Holland was still inheriting some wiggle room.
But Holland, too, hadn’t pitched for a while and he obviously was rusty. His mechanics were skewed and he left the ball up. No matter how good of stuff you have, major league hitters are going to smash a pitch left out over the plate. Mercifully he was pulled before too much more damage was inflicted.
This week’s meltdowns haven’t been the only ones recently though.
Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson also haven’t been as sharp in the last couple of weeks as perhaps fatigue has set in since Royals starters generally don’t go much more than six innings by design. Herrera was a curious All-Star pick to me as he has been far short of what he was last year. Madson had back-to-back clunkers, but has appeared to have shaken those off with a couple of good performances recently.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost may have realized Thursday that as much as he wants to rest Holland, he needs steady work to stay sharp. Holland’s delivery is somewhat all over the place and at times he’s like Danny Duffy in that he struggles to repeat it consistently. After Thursday’s implosion, Holland’s ERA has ballooned over the 4.00 mark, which is in the stratosphere for a closer.
The recent surge by the starters has been encouraging though. Johnny Cueto delivered a shutout in his last start and Yordano Ventura tossed six clean innings. Even last night, Jeremy Guthrie — who statistically has been about the worst starter in the American League — held the Angels to just one run over six innings, something they need more out of him.
The Royals fortunately lost only one game in the standings the last two nights as Minnesota also lost on Thursday. These were games, though, that by Royals standards should have been in the bag.
The Royals are more than just their bullpen. Their hitting is much stronger than last year and their defense never goes away, it’s always top of the shelf. It’s just that we’ve come so accustomed to the bullpen being bullet-proof that it’s taken everybody by surprise.
It just shows how fickle baseball can be.