Right-hander Greg Holland etched his name in Royals history Sunday with his 40th save in a 5-2 win against the Detroit Tigers.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
“He’s been lights out all year,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “Pretty much anytime he’s coming in, it’s a great feeling. He’s had some big saves in big situations where he’s come in. He’s fearless out there, and that’s what you need in a closer.”
Holland is 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 89 strikeouts in in 58 innings after working around Prince Fielder’s two-out double for his latest save.
He downplayed the significance of reaching 40 saves.
“Your personal accomplishments are something to look at when your career is over,” Holland said. “Hopefully, it’s something I look back on and enjoy, but right now we’re just trying to give ourselves the best chance to make the postseason.”
Holland became only the fourth closer in team history to reach the 40-save plateau.
Dan Quisenberry was the first to do it, recording 45 saves in 1983 and 44 in 1984. Jeff Montgomery matched Quisenberry’s club record with 45 saves in 1993, while Joakim Soria also reach that level twice (42, 2008; 43, 2010).
“Especially when you know guys personally, like Monty and Soria, it’s nice to be in good company,” Holland said.
Detroit down, Cleveland’s next
The Royals’ mettle was tested over the weekend after the Detroit Tigers opened a critical September series by taking their young American League Central rivals behind the woodshed for a 16-2 pounding that featured 26 hits.
Rather than wilt, the Royals rebounded with a pair of close wins — 4-3 on Saturday and 5-2 on Sunday — which makes the upcoming six-game road swing through Cleveland and Detroit even more critical.
The Royals trail the Rays by three games, pending the outcome of their game Sunday at Seattle, with 19 games remaining, in the chase for the second AL Wild Card.
Of course, three other teams are in the hunt as well — Baltimore and Cleveland, who lead the Royals by 11/2 games, and the Yankees, who are one game ahead.
“We know that we’re behind a couple teams, so every game matters,” Chen said. “We’ve got to take it one step at a time, but the way we’ve been playing the last couple weeks is very inspiring to everyone. It’s making us play even better.”
No, if you’re wondering, the Royals haven’t forgotten their last trip to Progressive Field, when the Indians swept the Royals in the final series before the All-Star Game.
“The last time we went into Cleveland, they swept us, so we’ve got some business to take care of over there,” Hosmer said. “It’s a huge series for us and a huge road trip, but we’ve got to continue to take it day-by-day and not get too far ahead of ourselves. If we stick to that approach, we’ll be in a good spot.”
Ervin Santana (8-8, 3.33 ERA) squares off with Ubaldo Jimenez (10-9, 3.79 ERA) at 6:05 p.m. Monday in the series opener.
“The most important thing is that we have our three best guys on the mound — Santana, (James) Shields and (Jeremy) Guthrie,” southpaw Bruce Chen said.
Perez rests — perhaps for final time
Yost opted to rest catcher Salvy Perez, giving George Kottaras the starting nod Sunday behind the plate.
Barring injury, it might be the last time Perez sits.
“It’ll probably be his last (day off) hopefully,” Yost said. “He’ll play all three in Cleveland then we’ll have a day off. Then, we’ll play another week and have a day off, so once we get out of that 44 games in 44 days marathon run, he’ll be able to go.”
Perez, who hit only four home runs in his first 99 games, has been on a tear since Aug. 17, batting .357 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 20 games. He is slugging .700 during that span.
And he might only be scratching the surface.
“He’s going to get smarter and he’s going to get more disciplined,” Yost said. “He’s tough to strike out. He’s going to put the ball in play.”
Cain returns to starting lineup
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain returned to the Royals’ starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 8 after going on the disabled list with a strained left oblique.
Cain had appeared in three straight games, but he hadn’t entered a game before the sixth inning before Sunday when manager Ned Yost penciled him in in right field.
“I felt good,” said Cain, who was zero for four with two strikeouts. “It didn’t look good, but I felt good and it was good to get back out there with my teammates. I’ve still got to pick it up and get going, but it was my first game back and it’ll get better.”
Cain is batting .256 in 100 games with 19 doubles, four home runs and 43 RBIs. He’s also one of the top defensive outfielders in the American League.