KC Royals vs. Pittsburgh: 3 keys to another sweep

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /
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KC Royals
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals can’t afford to let Pittsburg’s bullpen push them around.

Some big league bullpens are weak, so porous that opponents can’t wait to get into them.

The Pirates’ pen isn’t one of them, at least not this season.

After 22 games, Pittsburgh’s relievers are holding their opponents to the National League’s lowest opponents’ batting average (.195) and WHIP (1.05), rankings that are good for third best in the majors. The bullpen’s 3.40 ERA is second in the NL.

The best of the Bucs is righthander Richard Rodriguez, whose formidable 6-feet-four, 220-pound frame matches the imposing nature of his 2021 performance. In nine appearances, Rodriguez hasn’t surrendered a run. Only one of the 30 batters he’s faced has a hit, and only one has walked; his strikeout rate is 30 percent. His three saves lead the team.

Lefty Sam Howard and righty David Bednar are also pitching well. Howard is 2-1 out of the pen with a 2.00 ERA (206 ERA+) and 13 strikeouts in nine innings, while Bednar is 0-0, 2.35 with eight strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Southpaw Tyler Anderson (2-2, 3.92) starts tonight and averages better than five innings per game, but Pittsburgh may very well need stellar relief work against the Royals Wednesday, when righthander Mitch Keller is slated to start. Keller is 1-2 in four starts, and the 13 runs he’s given up in 16.1 innings make for an unsightly 7.16 ERA. (He surrendered seven of those runs in an unfortunate 3.1 frame start against San Diego, but his career 6.07 ERA suggests the Royals could get to him early).

Unless they batter the Pirate starters and score a lot themselves, the KC Royals need to avoid the best of the Buc bullpen if they want to get another sweep.

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Healthy thumbs, excellent starting pitching, and avoiding Pittsburgh’s best relievers are three keys to the KC Royals grabbing their second straight series sweep.