After Tuesday night's dramatic 7-6 victory over the White Sox, Denny Matthews said something to the effect of, "this winning streak has been all about the bullpen. You have a good bullpen, you win."
I'm not qualified to argue with the Hall of Fame Matthews, and in a broad sense I agree with him. The bullpen certainly has been very good this season. Good from day one. However, the starting pitching has, to a limited extent, played a part. Hear me out.
|Tuesday||Hochevar||6.0 IP, 4 ER|
|Sunday||Chen||5.0 IP, 5 ER|
|Saturday||Davies||5.1 IP, 4 ER|
|Friday||Francis||7.0 IP, 1 ER|
Now, to be sure, aside from the fluky Francis start these are all below average starts. At the very least, however, they all survived. There isn't a three inning appearance among them. Given that the Royals have won two 12 inning games during this streak, they've needed every last inning. Chen was bad on Sunday, but he did stand out there for five innings. The essence of what I'm getting at can be seen in the most recent game. Hochevar was blasted in the first inning on Tuesday, but he slogged through another five innings and kept the team in the game. By the end, the Royals were down to trying to get multiple innings out of Texeira. That's the definition of living on the edge.
I don't think the Royal starting rotation deserves a trophy. They've put the team behind and demanded near perfection from the bullpen. Every starter save Francis has an ugly ERA. Nevertheless, if they had been just 10% worse, the Royals might not have two or three of the wins that they currently own. They've survived. Kinda.
When it became clear that the Royal rotation was going to take its particular shape this off-season, just about everyone concluded that they would be among the worst rotations in the Major Leagues. And they still might. However, as Royals fans, we've seen bad rotations, and we've seen what just a single nightmare start can do to a pitching staff for the next three or four days. So far, we've avoided nightmares.