The strength of the Royals’ first winning season in a decade — the league’s top bullpen — has started its encore performance out of key.
A year after leading the American League in earned run average, the bullpen failed to fire a collective zero Sunday for the fourth time in five games.
Lefties Tim Collins and Francisley Bueno combined to allow a four-run ninth inning in the 5-1 loss to the White Sox. The frame loomed even larger after the Royals scored what otherwise would have been the tying run in the bottom of the ninth.
Collins threw only five of his 15 pitches for strikes and issued two walks for the second time this season.
“I didn’t command the baseball at all,” Collins said. “I didn’t put us in a situation to get back in the game and give us a chance to win. That’s it.”
It’s not the first time the bullpen has faltered in the opening week of the season. It has allowed nine runs (eight earned) in its first 12 2/3 innings of the season, representing a stark contrast from the reliable group of 2013, which posted zeroes in all but two of the first 12 games of the season.
“Everybody goes through spurts where they’re not pitching very well,” Collins said. “You have to go out there and be able to do your job the next day. If you can’t do that, you’re not consistent, and you’re not reliable.”
A few good outings, closer Greg Holland said, can help snowball the results in the opposite direction.
“We like to compete collectively together,” Holland said. “It’s always a pick-up-your-teammate kind of thing when (someone) struggles. It’s a long season. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and go out there and execute.”