This reliever is looking good again for the KC Royals

James McArthur seems to be back on the beam.
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
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By the time the ninth inning rolled around against Miami at Kauffman Stadium Monday, the KC Royals had already delivered plenty of evidence that they weren't about to let what happened in Texas over the weekend — they were swept in a series for the first time this season — get them down for long.

The struggling offense, a major reason why the Royals have slipped to third place in the American League Central, jarred itself awake. Vinnie Pasquantino, Salvador Perez, and Hunter Renfroe all homered off Miami starter Roddery Muñoz; their blasts and Kyle Isbel's RBI single accounted for all four KC runs, the most the club has scored since plating five against Oakland a week ago.

KC starter Cole Ragans provided further evidence that the Royals might have serious designs on shaking off the self-induced indignity of losing 18 of their last 26 games before Monday's contest. Ragans evened his record at 5-5 by striking out 11 and limiting the Marlins to just a run in six innings; it was the only run they scored in the Royals' 4-1 win.

Relievers Chris Stratton and John Schreiber each added a scoreless inning to Ragans' effort, leaving the ninth for James McArthur. And even though the game was really over at that point, what McArthur did was still quite important in the grand scheme of his up-and-down season.

James McArthur is showing signs of regaining his finer form

Think back, if you will, to last season when McArthur, stuck in DFA limbo by Pittsburgh, found himself rescued by the Royals via the early May trade that sent prospect Junior Marin to the Pirates. When the season ended, McArthur was a full-fledged member of manager Matt Quatraro's bullpen after dominating opponents throughout September and saving four games in the campaign's final full month.

That performance seemed to make McArthur the front-runner for club closer until general manager J.J. Picollo signed veteran reliever Will Smith in December. But when Smith faltered early this year, McArthur stepped in and had seven saves and a 12-game, 2.63 ERA when April ended.

Then came May and McArthur's ugly slump. He appeared only nine times and gave up 12 runs (10 earned) in 10 innings. Suddenly inconsistent and bordering on unreliable, he became the object of growing concern.

But there he was Monday night, starting the ninth inning in a save situation. He did precisely what the Royals badly needed — he shut down the Marlins, who came in on the heels of a series sweep of Seattle and three walk-off wins in their last five games, in order to earn his 13th save of the season.

Considered in a vacuum, the short stint isn't sufficient to declare McArthur cured of whatever ailed him in May. Add to it, though, what else he's done this month, and the story is suddenly different. Monday night's scoreless inning lowered his June ERA to 2.57, he's won twice and saved two more games, and he's held opponents scoreless in all but one of his eight appearances.

McArthur's big league career isn't yet long enough to make saying he's become the McArthur of old appropriate. But he's certainly looking better and better.

And that's a good thing for a team needing more of the same from him ... and others.

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