It’s been a long time since Royals reliever Scott Alexander earned a save.
Long enough that after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Rockies at Kauffman Stadium, Alexander couldn’t land on a straight answer when asked when his last one was.
“I don’t think I’ve ever — Oh, yeah, maybe in Triple-A in 2014 or 2015, maybe,” Alexander said.
As reporters walked away, a Royals communications director jogged Alexander’s memory. Alexander definitely was still in Class AAA Omaha, working in the Stormchasers’ bullpen. But it was only last year, in an April 17, 2016, contest against the Marlins’ affiliate.
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An unearned run scored in the outing. Still, Alexander was credited with the 21st save of his professional career in that 3-2 win over the New Orleans Zephyrs.
The parallel between outings stops there. There was nothing conventional about Alexander’s first major-league save.
After loading the bases with two outs, closer Kelvin Herrera left the game because of right forearm tightness in the middle of Rockies designated hitter Pat Valaika’s at-bat. Manager Ned Yost scrambled to figure out who would give the Royals the best chance to preserve the lead, and it was Alexander who was forced out of the bullpen and into a 2-0 count.
“I didn’t want to shy away from the opportunity or the situation,” Alexander said. “Just wanted to be aggressive and attack the zone. … I came into the game and I knew what I wanted to do, I knew what I had to do.”
With the tying run just 90 feet away, he threw Valaika a sinker near the middle of the zone that was called a strike. Then he got Valaika to ground into a force-out at second base on a sinker in the bottom right corner.
Two pitches. That was that.
“I just felt Scotty with his good sinker and his ability to throw strikes would give us the best opportunity,” Yost said. “ That’s a tough spot to put somebody in. … He came in and, bang bang, two strikes. He did a great job.”
It was the 13th time in franchise history that a save was recorded with just two pitches. Herrera earned the last one on June 18 against the Los Angeles Angels.
“The story of the game was what Scott Alexander did today,” starter Danny Duffy said. “I mean, that took some kind of guts. He did his thing and he deserves to be here. He’s a stud.”