After winning 3 consecutive games in extra innings, it’s easy to begin thinking the Kansas City Royals are a team of destiny. But there may be a more logical reason for their success. The Royals bullpen is ASSUME! 9 innings without allowing a run, the Royals relievers have outlasted a good Angels bullpen. In fact, looking around at every Major League Baseball playoff series, the importance of a deep bullpen has become very evident.
The most glaring example is the performance of the Detroit Tigers relievers, which has been the exact opposite of the Royals. The Tigers bullpen is AWFUL! I think their ERA is something like infinity. In the first game they took a close 4-3 ballgame and in a single inning turned it into a blowout for the Orioles. Yesterday, they gave up a 3 run lead in the eighth inning and placed their team on the precipice of elimination.
In the first game of the Dodgers vs. the Cardinals series, the impact of the bullpen was more subtle. In the 7th inning the Dodgers 4 run lead stunningly turned into a 4 run deficit. One thing that was evident was how reluctant Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was to take out his starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw as the Cardinals compiled hit after hit in that critical inning. If you had watched the Dodgers all season, you could understand his thinking, because the Dodgers setup relievers have been so inconsistent. He even turned to rookie Pedro Baez to relieve Kershaw before going to pitchers who had been with the team all year. Unfortunately, that move failed as Baez gave a up a 3 run home run to Matt Holiday that became the difference in the outcome of this game. If it’s any consolation to Dodger fans, the Cardinal bullpen didn’t look bulletproof either, so we may yet have a competitive series here.
In the other National League playoff series, the San Francisco Giants have a good bullpen. Enough said.