For a second straight game, things were going right for the Royals. They scored late and extended their lead. The bullpen, unfortunately, couldn’t hold it.
There were good moments for the KC Royals in last night’s game against the Cardinals, though, there were bad moments as well. In a game similar to the night before, the Royals were tied going into the late innings but were able to get a few things going.
McBroom homered to left int he 8th, breaking the tie, and Merrifield doubled in the 9th, allowing Lopez and Mondesi to score. They were doing things that weren’t typical during the first portion of the season. They were keeping the line moving and scoring in the late innings.
There were still some obvious moments where they were unable to capitalize with runners on base, but improvement is an improvement in this shortened season and with a movement towards hitting for runs in later innings, the hitting with runners in scoring position may come around as well.
The Royals looked good and on track to win, but the issues really started in the 8th. Josh Staumont managed one out, but allowed a hit and walked two before he was pulled for Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal got the Royals out of the brought 8th inning without a scratch but gave up a hit and 2 walks himself during the 9th, also getting 2 outs.
Mike Matheny pulled him after reaching 34 pitches and brought Rosario in for the final out. A hit batter, a single, and another walk later, the Cardinals had won the game. Jeffrey Flanagan provided some quotes from Matheny concerning Rosenthal.
“[Rosenthal] was starting to hit a wall,” Matheny said. “He got to the number of pitches that we didn’t feel safe anymore, and it’s a shame. We’re not going to sacrifice potential health of a player in a situation like that.”
A breakdown of the bullpen is bound to happen in a few games throughout the season, especially when success is a norm. Staumont and Rosenthal could be seeing some fatigue, as they are being used a great deal this season. If this is the case, pitchers like Scott Barlow may also see some fatigue at some point as he has been used in a major league-leading (for pitchers) 18 games.
What this game may have shown, though, is the next issue the Royals may have to work through. In last night’s game, the Royals used 7 relievers, the Cardinals used 2. In Tuesday’s game, the Royals used 6 relievers, the Cardinals used 2. Monday was better, with the Royals using 4 relievers as opposed to 3 from St. Louis, but the trend is still there well enough to see.
In many cases throughout the season, the Royals relievers being used from night to night are the same names. Not only that, relievers are consistently having to come in around the 5th inning, give or take 1, and at times earlier.
The 2 things the Royals must focus on next with the pitching staff is finding a way for the starters to go deeper into games, and rounding out the bullpen.
It’s understood that the rotation could still likely see some issues with innings this season. Jakob Junis has been on and off the injured roster, Matt Harvey is a toss-up so far, and both Brady Singer and Kris Bubic are still very young arms trying to figure out the major leagues. This likely won’t be a quick fix, but it needs to be a focus nonetheless.
As for the bullpen, instead of having a few arms that are consistently called into games, the Royals need to look further to find more arms they feel comfortable throwing into the mix whenever they need them. Matheny also mentioned this in Flanagan’s article.
“We can’t keep this up. We can’t keep running them out there in a 162-game season, or even in a shortened season, like this. We have to have other guys stepping into roles they are not accustomed to. Once again, I’m not going to sacrifice a player’s health. We chase these things at all costs, but not that one.”
While he could have been talking about a couple of different things here, one might get the idea that the bullpen had some part in this statement. Whether this means finding the right fit for players already in the bullpen or bringing up players from the alternate site, one can’t be sure. But, it will be important going forward for the Royals to have a clearly defined bullpen and one that contains more pitchers that Matheny is comfortable bringing in, not just gambling on.
It’s not as simple as writing it and stating what seems to be the issue, and it is, unfortunately, one of the growing pains of a team with plenty of young or inexperienced players trying to find their way in the big leagues. Bringing the issue out into focus, though, is the first step to taking action to fix it.
The Royals bullpen saw some issues in last night’s game. Whether they are getting tired, or just didn’t have it last night, the team needs to ensure that they have players that can take over in any situation and help the team progress.