Looking for an explanation for the Royals’ inability to build on the early June momentum that carried them back to .500 after an extended May free fall?
It might be as simple as tracking the bullpen’s ability to bridge the game to closer Greg Holland. Friday wasn’t the first time in recent weeks the unit leaked away a possible victory.
(Yes, the Royals remain plagued by a lack of scoring. Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Cleveland marked the 52nd time in 91 games that they failed to generate four runs. But the bullpen is a supposed and must-have strength.)
And on Friday, Tim Collins inherited a 0-0 game in the seventh from Bruce Chen but combined with Aaron Crow to allow three runs before ending the inning in an eventual 3-0 loss.
That’s highlights the problem: Collins and Crow are club’s top two set-up relievers and both have been inconsistent during a 9-14 run since the Royals clawed back to .500 on June 17 after a 4-19 nosedive through much of May.
Even so, manager Ned Yost isn’t planning any changes in their roles.
“We’re thinking about all kinds of different scenarios,” Yost said, “but it doesn’t include those two guys. They gave up five straight hits (in Friday’s loss). It happens. They’re not going to be perfect.”
To be fair, Collins seemed to have bounced back from a tough recent stretch by making four scoreless appearances prior to Friday. Even so, he allowed nine runs in 61/3 innings over his last 10 appearances.
Collins’ ERA, which stood at 2.02 on June 22, has more than doubled to 4.09.
Yost chooses to see Friday as a hiccup.
“Before that, he had settled down quite nicely,” Yost said. “He had a couple of good outings in New York after a couple of good outings at home.”
Crow’s ERA is actually nudging downward in recent weeks, but it’s a deceptive improvement because he’s permitted seven of his last 10 inherited runners to score. (Often, those are runners that Collins put on base).
Even so, Crow remains in line for men-on situations in the late innings.
“He’s more acclimated to come in with guys on,” Yost said. “My mind-set is in the seventh inning, I’m going to bring in Aaron with guys on base. And let Hoch (Luke Hochevar) start the eighth.”
Yost has alternatives available should he change his mind.
Sidearming right-hander Louis Coleman has retired eight straight hitters, seven on strikeouts, since his recall Monday from Class AAA Omaha. That recall came after he compiled a 1.61 ERA in 24 outings.
The Royals could also recall right-hander Kelvin Herrera, who entered the season as the club’s primary set-up reliever before surrendering eight homers in a span of 14 innings.
Herrera is currently on his second remedial tour of the season at Omaha and is flashing top form with 81/3 scoreless innings over his last three outings. He has 11 strikeouts and two walks in that span.
The Royals made a bullpen move prior to Saturday’s game: The need for a fresh left-handed reliever prompted them to recall Everett Teaford from Class AAA Omaha and option Donnie Joseph to the same club.
Joseph made his big-league debut Thursday in New York and threw 23 more pitches in Friday’s loss to the Indians. That meant he was likely unavailable for Saturday’s game.
“He did fine,” Yost said. “He did a nice job. We just wanted some protection against (Cleveland’s) predominantly left-handed lineup. As much as we’re using Timmy (Collins), we have to have some sort of backup.”
Teaford, 29, was 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA in a variety of roles at Omaha, including nine starts. He arrives well-rested: He hasn’t pitched since July 6.
Another move coming
The Royals must make another roster move prior to Sunday’s game to accommodate the return of pitcher Wade Davis from paternity leave.
Yost said Davis and his wife, Katelyn, welcomed their first child, a baby girl, late Friday. All concerned are doing well.
Davis won’t actually rejoin the club, but paid paternity leave is limited to 72 hours. Davis departed the club after his start Wednesday night in New York, but he isn’t scheduled to pitch until after the All-Star break.
“I told him to stay home,” Yost said. “After having a baby (Friday) night, why have him fly back so he can just sit here in Cleveland? Common sense comes into play here somewhere.”
That means the Royals will play Sunday’s game with 24 active players.
Back to New York
Left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvy Perez will travel in style Sunday night to New York for the All-Star Game, courtesy of Royals owner David Glass.
“Private plane,” Gordon said. “Thank you, Mr. Glass.”
Gordon and Perez will take part in Monday’s scheduled All-Star activities in New York before serving as reserves on the American League club for Tuesday’s game at Citi Field.
Two just-promoted relievers, Santiago Garrido and Sam Runion, had rough debuts Friday at Omaha in a 7-6 loss to Round Rock (Rangers) after arriving from Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
Garrido gave up two runs and four hits in 31/3 innings, while Runion permitted four runs and six hits in 22/3 innings.
Neither got the loss. That went to Francisley Bueno, who surrendered a tie-breaking homer in the ninth inning to Manny Ramirez.
Garrido, 23, is a Dominican native who signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007. He was 0-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 25 games at Northwest Arkansas.
Runion, 24, was the Royals’ second-round pick in 2007. He was 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA in 24 games at Northwest Arkansas.
It was 22 years ago Sunday — July 14, 1991 — that the Royals set a franchise record by hitting six home runs in an 18-4 victory at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
Mike Macfarlane and Brian McRae each hit two homers, while George Brett and Todd Benzinger had one each. Royals starter Tom Gordon gave up three homers to Detroit in the victory.
The Royals matched their club record by hitting six homers on May 21, 2003, in a 14-5 victory at Safeco Field in Seattle.
• Despite losing Saturday, Jeremy Guthrie’s eight victories are the most by a Royals pitcher before the All-Star break since Zack Greinke had 10 in 2009. Greinke went on to win the Cy Young Award.
• The Royals have their first four-game losing streak since June 18-22. That previous streak came after a 13-5 run pulled the Royals back to .500 at 34-34.
• The Indians’ rotation has a 1.81 ERA over its last seven games while limiting opponents to a .173 average.
• The Indians hold a 7-5 lead in the season series. After Sunday’s game, the two teams play two more three-game series: Sept. 9-11 in Cleveland and Sept. 16-18 at Kauffman Stadium.