When Brian Flynn pitched five innings in relief after Friday night’s nightmare start at Kauffman Stadium, it seemed he had saved the bullpen before a stretch of 17 games in 17 days.
Ned Yost said so after the 13-4 loss to the Astros. Flynn thought so himself after allowing just one run in the best pitching outing of his career.
And for a day, Flynn did save the bullpen. On Saturday, Flynn’s effort felt distant — lost, even.
For the second time in as many days, a Royals starter failed to make it through three innings, pinning the bullpen’s back to the wall. In two games against the Astros, Royals’ starting pitchers have given up 19 runs in 3 1/3 innings.
But on Saturday, rather than Flynn, it was a combination of Peter Moylan, Chien-Ming Wang and catcher Drew Butera who saved the Royals bullpen for one more day.
“What Wang did and what Moylan did,” Yost said after the 13-5 loss to the Astros, “that was huge.”
Moylan went 2 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The innings were the most he’s thrown in one outing since June 9, 2007, with the Atlanta Braves.
He pushed the Royals to the sixth inning, when Wang took the mound and gave up a run on back-to-back doubles. Then he got his feet under him and retired the next nine batters.
Wang pitched three innings, his longest outing since 2013, and came back out without much left in the ninth. Wang gave up three hits, a walk, and tossed a wild pitch before Yost turned to the bullpen in the ninth.
But Yost went to the bullpen without actually going to the bullpen and burning an arm. It was Butera who pitched the remainder of the game. He got his fastball up to 92 mph, and even recorded a strikeout. His inning saved all the Royals’ late-game arms for the next couple of days, with not many innings left to expend in the bullpen.
“I hate spending one of those back-end guys in a game where we’re down five and puts us in jeopardy two or three days down the road,” Yost said. “I like to try to win games that we have a chance to win.”
And he may have also saved a bullpen arm, possibly even Flynn, from being sent down in the next couple of days. But with Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Joakim Soria and closer Wade Davis all fresh going forward, Yost thinks the Royals, with Ian Kennedy on the mound on Sunday, should be good to go.
Before Saturday’s game, Yost noted that Flynn and Dillon Gee should be ready to pitch again on Tuesday, after three days of rest.
“I think (we can make it),” said Yost, who will discuss possibly calling up a pitcher with general manager Dayton Moore before Sunday’s game. “Drew will be available tomorrow, but hopefully we won’t need him.”