It remains possible that Royals closer Kelvin Herrera could be back in action soon. That would make some of this discussion unnecessary. Yet it seemed warranted after the Royals’ 7-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday at Comerica Park.
When Herrera exited in the middle of the ninth inning in a victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday, manager Ned Yost indicated that the Royals’ closer would be unavailable for around three days because of a mild strain in the lower part of his right forearm.
Monday represented the third day of rest for Herrera. But if the lower portion of his right forearm continues to bark, another option has emerged in left-hander Scott Alexander, who earned his third one-out save of the season after rescuing right-hander Brandon Maurer.
“He’s handled (the ninth inning) in the most crucial situations, the last three saves,” Yost said. “You come in with the situation that he’s been in … for him to handle those situations, he can handle anything.”
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The Royals entered the ninth inning on Monday leading 7-3. Yost was seeking to offer Alexander a day off after using him five times in seven days. But Maurer, who earned a save on Sunday in Minnesota, had also pitched four times in six days, and he appeared to wear down on Monday as his outing continued. He served up a three-run homer on a first-pitch fastball to Detroit’s Nicholas Castellanos, which sliced the lead to 7-6. Maurer allowed two more base runners before Yost summoned Alexander to face Tigers center fielder Mikie Mahtook.
Four sinkers later, the Royals had secured the victory.
“I’m just trying to attack the bottom part of the zone,” Alexander said. “Make them hit it on the ground.”
Alexander lowered his ERA to 2.18 while completing his 47th appearance. In moments, he has been the Royals’ most reliable reliever.
As a sinkerballer, his strikeout rate is not overly dominant (7.7 per nine innings). But he leads all major-league relievers in ground-ball percentage, inducing contact on the ground 75 percent of the time. In addition, his arsenal of sinkers has also allowed him to be effective against both righties and lefties. Entering Monday, Alexander had held opposing right-handed hitters to a .608 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage). He has held lefties to a .678 OPS.
“It’s that power sinker at 93 mph,” Yost said. “When he’s up in the zone, which isn’t very often … that’s when he gets elevated. But when he’s down in the zone, like he was today, he’s very, very tough to elevate.”
For now, Herrera could be back soon. So could setup man Joakim Soria, who remains on the disabled list. The Royals have an option in Maurer, who closed in San Diego. But Alexander has already rescued Herrera twice in the ninth inning after his forearm issue surfaced. On Monday, he picked up Maurer.
If Herrera is unavailable, it might be worth starting Alexander in the ninth inning.