As the resident cyborg in the Royals bullpen, it’s hard to imagine that Wade Davis feeling nervous.
Fans have seen emotion, of course. Anger and jubilation. But anxiety? From a guy who had a 0.94 ERA this year and 17 saves?
Yep, Davis admitted to being a little tense when he was called on to close out the Royals’ 5-4 win over the Astros in Game 2 of American League Division Series on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.
“It was a little tough to calm down,” Davis said. “Just trying to make sure your nerves are under control, you know?
“I haven’t been in front of that kind of crowd in a while.”
The sellout crowd of 40,008 roared as Davis struck out Jed Lowrie to open the ninth. Preston Tucker then walked. But Davis picked off pinch-runner Carlos Gomez, and got a Jose Altuve to ground out to third.
It’s just what manager Ned Yost expected from the bullpen. Kelvin Herrera took over in the seventh inning for starter Johnny Cueto and allowed only a two-out single. The Royals took the lead in the bottom of the inning, and Ryan Madson set down the Astros in order in the eighth, getting two strikeouts.
Then came Davis, who got his first postseason save just as everyone expected.
“Once we tied that ball game up in the sixth inning there, you know that you got Herrera, Madson. You’ve got Davis,” Yost said. “You’ve got (Danny) Duffy still available down there, Hoch (Luke Hochevar) and (Franklin) Morales. You feel really good about your chances of holding the score right there until you can score.”
The H-M-D back end of the bullpen is, of course, a change from last year’s H-D-H, because Greg Holland had Tommy John surgery.
It’s a new lineup, but nobody expects different results from a bullpen that dominated the postseason in 2014. In the first two games of the ALDS, the bullpen has allowed two runs in 10 innings (1.80 ERA). The H-M-D group has struck out nine in five innings with one walk, four hits allowed and a 1.80 ERA.
“Whenever they call down there to the bullpen, we just try to come in and do our job,” Herrera said. “Greg is not there, so we miss him, obviously. We want to step up for him.”
Ryan Madson, who was out of baseball in 2014, watched the Royals bullpen dominate with amazement. And now he’s a integral part of it.
“It was one of the best groups that I’ve ever seen come out, seven, eight, nine, where it was that dominant, because it’s not that easy, especially late in the game like that,” Madson said. “And the way they handled it was tremendous.
“I’m just trying to keep up with that kind of theme.”
So far, so good.