Dating back to the eighth inning June 2 during a 3-1 loss at Texas, the Royals’ bullpen has not allowed a run in 18 innings after Aaron Crow and Greg Holland each worked a scoreless inning Sunday against the Houston Astros.
“You can ask anybody in this room,” Holland said. “We think we have the deepest bullpen in the major leagues. That might be cocky, but that’s just the way we feel about. If the game’s tied or we’re ahead when their starter leaves, we know that 90 percent of the time we’re going to win that game.”
Ask anybody, huh? Challenge accepted.
“We have complete confidence in our bullpen,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “That’s always been our strength and those guys do what they do. Any time we get in those later innings, we’re so confident that we’re going to win that game because we know how good they are.”
Sunday’s starter Luis Mendoza had only thrown 88 pitches through seven innings and didn’t want to come out, but manager Ned Yost was leery of letting him go through Houston’s lineup a fourth time, especially with so many well-rested arms available in relief.
“Mentally, when we come on the mound, we think the game’s over — no matter what inning it is,” Holland said. “That’s a confidence we’ve built over the last few years.”Lough completes outfield hat trick
During the series finale against the Astros, outfielder David Lough started in center field, giving him a rare hat trick.
On Friday, Lough started in right field and Saturday he got the starting nod in left with Alex Gordon getting his first day off this season.
“I couldn’t even tell you which spot I’ve spent the most time at, because I’ve been all over the place,” Lough said. “One year in center, one year in right and one year in left — it’s been all over the place.”
Asked if he has a preference for which patch of grass he patrols, Lough matter-of-factly said no.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Lough said. “Wherever the lineup says I go is where I go. I feel comfortable at all three spots. I think it adds great value to my game. It’s just like being a utility guy on the infield.”Division-leading Detroit visits next
Starting at 7:10 p.m. Monday, the Royals welcome the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers to Kauffman Stadium for a three-game series.
The Royals, 28-32, moved into third place by finishing off the sweep of the Astros and trail the Tigers, 35-26, by 6½ games.
“It’s a long season, so we’re worried about (the standings) too much right now,” left field Alex Gordon said. “But we do know it’s a big series. Any time we play a Central Division opponent, we take it very serious, especially a team like Detroit who’s at the top.”
Still, the Royals, who have won a season-high five in a row, so caught up in the matchup that they get away from the brand of baseball they’ve played in the last week.
“Division games are always big, because you can make up ground a lot quicker, but we have to approach it like any other game,” Holland said. “If we pitch like we’ve been pitching and get those timely hits like we’ve been getting lately, we’re going to be fine. It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing.”Eighth-inning magic
During the Royals’ five-game win streak, the club has scored eight of its 24 runs in the eighth inning, a welcome sign for a club trying to dig out of the hole created by a sluggish May.
“We’re getting the hits at the right time later in the game to put us on top,” second baseman Chris Getz said. “The pitchers are, and they have been, keeping us in it. It’s just now we’re getting the hits in the eighth and ninth inning when it counts.”Etc.
• The Royals celebrated K-State Day on Sunday, flashing up facts about the Wildcats on Crown Vision throughout the game. Men’s basketball guard Will Spradling, a Shawnee Mission South graduate, threw out the first pitch.
• Perhaps it’s only coincidence, but since George Brett took over as hitting coach May 30, the Royals are 7-3.
• With his one-out single in the eighth inning, Houston’s Jose Altuve extended his hitting streak to 10 games.