When the Kansas City Royals won the 2014 and 2015 American League pennants, they did it with a dominant bullpen. If they got a lead after six innings, the game was all-but decided.
While the 2020 Royals haven’t seen the success of those two clubs, the bullpen is shaping up as a strength entering Sunday’s series finale against the Minnesota Twins.
Kansas City manager Mike Matheny has a three-headed monster at the back end of his bullpen, with Ian Kennedy, Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal all owning seasons of 30-plus saves. Add flame-throwing Josh Staumont and his 103 mph fastball, and Matheny can mix and match to squash late-game threats.
“It’s nice to have different guys to fill those roles, including (Scott) Barlow,” Matheny said before his bullpen allowed just two runs in five innings of work in Saturday’s 9-6 victory over the Twins. “It’s more about the lineup matchups.
“It’s best for our team right now. We’re not getting pushback from anyone. Those saves have value, I know (in terms of salary). But we have so many unique characters down there. Rosie and Holly … they don’t need labels.”
Holland was the Royals’ closer in 2014 and 2015 before he suffered an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery. He had three seasons of 30-plus saves, including a Royals record of 47 in 2013. He missed the 2016 season and spent the last three seasons on four different National League clubs.
Kennedy was moved to the Royals’ bullpen prior to the 2019 season and became the closer in late May. He converted 30 of 34 save opportunities.
Rosenthal signed a minor league contract with the Royals this offseason after spending the first six years in St. Louis and last year pitched just 15 1/3 innings with Washington and Detroit. He has assumed the closer position in K.C this year.
The Royals will be going for a three-game sweep of the Twins, and the bullpen is a big reason why. In the first two games, they’ve allowed two runs in 9 1/3 innings.
“The bullpen once again did a fantastic job for us,” Matheny said after Saturday’s victory.
The sweep will be hard to get, as the Twins will send Jose Berrios (1-1, 4.80 ERA) to the mound Sunday. Berrios threw six innings of one-run ball (four hits) in picking up his first win against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He’s allowed just three runs in his last two starts.
He’s hoping that nothing fluky happens in his start against the Royals, after his last was interrupted by a drone that appeared over center field, causing a brief delay.
“That was really crazy. I’ve never seen that before,” Berrios said after the game. “In my mind, I said, ‘Really? That has to happen right now when I’m pitching?’ I just tried to keep focused.”
He’s 3-2 with a 4.29 ERA against the Royals in 13 career starts.
The Royals will counter with rookie Brady Singer (0-1, 4.80), who will be making his fourth start. He’s still looking for his first win, though he’s shown the ability to get strikeouts, fanning 18 in 15 innings. The long ball has been his problem, as he gave up two homers in each of his last two starts.
–Field Level Media