A lights-out bullpen the past two seasons has led the Kansas City Royals to back-to-back World Series appearances and one world title. Well, the relief staff is back at it in K.C. The Royals bullpen gave up nary a run in 18 innings pitched last week, leading to a perfect 7-0 mark that has lifted Kansas City back into the playoff race.
As the Royals hit their stride, a trio of playoff contenders with usually-dependable bullpens were dinged by the poor work of their relief staffs last week. The Dodgers and Orioles--who each rank in the top-six in bullpen ERA this season--as well as the Tigers all suffered blows to their playoff chances because of sub-par relief pitching.
Here is this week's bullpen report from Doc's Sports .
Hottest MLB Bullpens
Kansas City Royals
18 IP 0.00 ERA, 3 HLD, 3 SV, 0 BSV
Since taking over the closer role from injured Wade Davis in late July, Kelvin Herrera has yet to give up a run while going a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities. He closed out three more wins last week for the streaking Royals, who are now just four games out of a wild-card spot.
Davis, who played a critical role in the Royals' two World Series runs, is expected to start throwing live batting practice this week with the hope of returning by the end of the season. If he does, the Royals will have an embarrassment of riches at the back-end of the 'pen with Herrera, Davis and Joakim Soria (16 HLD, 3.88 ERA).
This week the Royals hit the road for three games in Miami followed by a three-game set versus Boston at Fenway Park.
St. Louis Cardinals
16 IP, 1.13 ERA, 2 SV, 0 BSV
Seung Hwan Oh is another that's excelled since being promoted to the closer role. Oh tallied his 12th save of the season and also posted a win last week while lowering his ERA to 1.82. Set-up man Zack Duke (2.35 ERA, 22 HLD), who was acquired via trade in late July, also continues to pay dividends as he didn't give up a run in three appearances last week.
The excellent work of the bullpen has helped lift the Cardinals into the second N.L. wild-card spot, 1.5 games ahead of the Marlins. St. Louis is home this week for three games against the Mets followed by a three-game set against the A's.
Other hot MLB bullpens: Miami Marlins (18 IP, 2.00 ERA, 5 HLD, 3 SV, 1 BSV); Pittsburgh Pirates
(17 1/3 IP, 2.08 ERA, 2 HLD, 2 SV, 1 BSV); Cleveland Indians (22 2/3 IP, 2.38 ERA, 3 HLD, 3 SV, 1 BSV); Los Angeles Angels (22 2/3 IP, 2.99 ERA, 3 HLD, 2 SV, 1 BSV)
Coldest MLB Bullpens
Los Angeles Dodgers
28 2/3 IP, 5.65 ERA, 2 HLD, 0 SV, 1 BSV
The bullpen has been a strength of the Dodgers this season as its 3.30 ERA is the third-best in MLB. The waters got choppy last week, however. Set-up man Pedro Baez made five appearances last week and gave up a total of seven runs in 3 1/3 IP, which increased his ERA by nearly a full run to 3.64. There was little need for closer Kenley Jensen (35 SV, 1.76 ERA), who made just one appearance last week. Of course, every relief staff is going to go through a rough patch at some point during the season. With the quality arms in this 'pen, look for the Dodgers overcome these recent struggles.
Los Angeles has a huge six-game homestand this week. First, the rival Giants come to town for a critical three-game set. They will be followed by the Cubs for a three-game weekend series.
27 IP, 7.00 ERA, 3 HLD, 1 SV, 0 BSV
The Orioles went 2-5 last week, with two of those losses stemming from the bullpen. First, set-up man Brad Bach--who has an excellent 1.57 ERA this season--coughed up an eighth-inning lead in a loss to the Red Sox early in the week. Then, Ubaldo Jimenez came out of the 'pen and the floodgates opened in an eventual 15-8 loss to the Astros a couple days later.
The Orioles are scrambling a bit and will need to get things fixed in a hurry to hold onto a playoff spot. They still have perhaps the best closer in the A.L. in Zach Britton (38 SV, 0.53 ERA), but any continued slip in production from the bullpen could prove a critical blow.
This week Baltimore plays the Nationals for four games and then travels to the Bronx for a three-game set against the Yankees.
Other cold MLB bullpens: Detroit Tigers (17 2/3 IP, 7.64 ERA, 0 HLD, 1 SV, 1 BSV); New York Yankees (16 IP, 9.00 ERA, 3 HLD, 0 SV, 1 BSV)
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