Finally, that good-for-nothing, leaky bullpen of the Royals held up!
After the last two games, at least, that's what it feels like.
Danny Duffy overcame a shaky start, the offense provided all the run support needed in the middle innings, and the bullpen slammed the door to snap the Royals' short two-game losing streak. A 4-1 win on Friday night gave the team its 69th win of the season, delighting the vast majority of the souls that make up Royals Twitter.
Coming off of his shortest start since May, Danny Duffy (6-5) was sensational for the Royals. Shane Victorino led off the game with a triple that was misplayed by left fielder Ben Zobrist, and he would later score on Mike Trout's RBI double. However, that would be it for the Angels against Duffy; he improved as the game went along to throw six sharp innings. Los Angeles stranded the bases loaded in the second inning before Duffy went into cruise control, yielding just two singles in his last four frames of work. His final line: six innings, five hits, one run, and two strikeouts. He didn't walk a batter, though he did hit three Angels with pitches. He threw 93 pitches.
Through five innings against the corpse of Jered Weaver, it appeared that Duffy was heading for a tough-luck loss. Weaver took a one-hitter into the sixth inning. The only hit the Royals could muster was an infield single by Lorenzo Cain. In the blink of an eye, the tables turned in the bottom of the sixth frame.
Zobrist led off with a ringing double off the right-field wall, narrowly missing a home run. Looking to simply move him to third base, Cain hit a chopper right to first baseman Albert Pujols, who booted the ball and it rolled into right field. Zobrist scored to tie the game, but the trouble was only beginning for Weaver. He fell behind the red-hot Eric Hosmer. Cain danced around at second base, Weaver attempted several pickoffs. He was distracted from focusing on the Royals' most dangerous hitter, and after being squeezed a bit earlier in the plate appearance, he hung a curveball right down the middle. Hosmer swung. He connected. 3-1, Royals.
Hosmer's 14th home run sailed over the visiting bullpen, igniting Kauffman Stadium and putting the Royals in control of the game. The only concern was whether the bullpen hold up or not.
After two straight games that saw the bullpen give up the game-losing runs, the Royals' dominant cast of relievers returned to form by keeping the Angels off the scoreboard in the game's final three innings.
First was Ryan Madson, who took over for Duffy in the seventh frame. He would load the bases behind a double and two walks, only to induce a groundout by Pujols to end the threat. Kelvin Herrera, arguably the most trustworthy reliever right now, mowed down all three hitters he faced. The Royals added an insurance run in the eighth inning when Drew Butera brought home a fourth run with an RBI single.
Then came Greg Holland. The same Holland who had allowed four runs without recording an out just 24 hours prior. The same Holland who entered Friday's game with an ERA near 15 when being caught by Drew Butera. Would there be problems? Would he blow his second straight save for the first time in his career?
No. He struck out the side to earn his 26th save of the season. He remains very, very good.
With the win, the Royals improved to 69-46 on the season. They also gained a game on the Twins, who lost earlier in the evening, to increase the lead in the AL Central to a whopping 12 games. Once again, Kansas City is the only team in the division with a winning record.
Up next: Tomorrow, both teams will vie to gain the strangle hold on the series. The Royals will send their ace, Johnny Cueto (8-7, 2.53 ERA), fresh off a shutout, to the hill. He will oppose the Angels' Matt Shoemaker (5-8, 4.36), who has not faced the Royals since game two of last year's ALDS.