Until this year, Bret Saberhagen was the only Royals pitcher to win multiple games in a postseason series, and he earned the 1985 World Series MVP for that effort.
The Royals now have a second pitcher with two victories in a series.
Wade Davis was the winning pitcher in the first two games of the American League Championship Series against the Orioles, but he downplays the individual component of the accomplishment.
“I don’t know if wins are a big deal throwing an inning here and there,” Davis said. “But it’s good we didn’t have to extend the games much longer, and it was good to get those wins.”
To Davis, an extra day of rest doesn’t hurt either. With Monday’s game three postponed because of rain, the Royals’ bullpen figures to benefit most from the delay — Davis and Kelvin Herrera in particular after their roles were expanded in Baltimore.
Herrera, the seventh-inning specialist, and Davis, who owns the eighth, were both stretched out to two innings in the series opener Friday.
They kept their pitch counts low, Herrera with 20 and Davis 18, and both came back and threw in their regular spots in game two Saturday.
Herrera worked a stressful 24 pitches in game two. The Orioles loaded the bases with one out, but Herrera didn’t allow a run. Davis added another 18 pitches.
Davis hadn’t thrown more than one inning in a game since May. Manager Ned Yost stretched out Herrera more recently.
Both were taxed at Camden Yards. Davis and closer Greg Holland have appeared in all six playoff games. Herrera missed only game two of the AL Division Series against the Angels because of numbness in a finger on his pitching hand.
“This deep into the season, going back to back a lot anyways is tough, but we’re just trying to do whatever we can to keep it going,” Davis said.
That could mean an even heavier workload. During the season, Herrera and Davis likely weren’t going to be used unless the Royals led or were tied.
“That’s apt to change,” Yost said. “We’ll pitch them if we’re down one, maybe down two. We pushed them a number of times late in the season to two or three days in a row and they responded fine.”
The rainout comes with a potential downside. With game five set for Thursday, if necessary, there will not be another day off in the series.
Royals relievers have been workhorses all season.
Davis and Herrera combined for 142 innings in the regular season without surrendering a home run. Davis gave up five extra base hits in 72 innings, and recorded a team-record 109 strikeouts by a reliever. Herrera gave up 12 extra base hits in 70 innings.
They both owned a 31-plus-inning scoreless streak this season.
During the regular season, the bullpen’s ERA was 3.30, ranked 10th in baseball, four spots behind the Orioles.
In the postseason, Royals relievers have a 5-0 record and 2.30 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, the starters — James Shields three times, Yordano Ventura twice and Jason Vargas — have combined for a 4.41 ERA in 34 2/3 innings.
The starting pitching has kept the Royals close into the middle innings, and the bullpen has brought it home.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who has a superb bullpen on his side, figured the rain will only help the Royals.
“Maybe theirs more than ours,” Showalter said when asked about the extra-day benefit.
The Orioles clinched the East Division with almost two weeks remaining in the regular season and had that much time to set their pitching and rest arms for the playoffs. Sweeping the Tigers in the AL Division Series provided more time.
“Our guys were pretty fresh coming in,” Showalter said. “You reach a fine point where they have too much time, too.”
That’s not the case with the Royals, but the results couldn’t be more positive.