Royals' triumvirate in rare postseason company
The Royals' late-inning bullpen trio is living up to the advanced billing. Closer Greg Holland earned his record-tying seventh postseason save in Friday's 3-2 victory against the Giants in Game 3 of the World Series at AT&T Park, leaving him in a position to break the record before the World Series ends.
Holland currently shares the top spot with Brad Lidge of the 2008 Phillies, Robb Nen of the '02 Giants, Troy Percival of the '02 Angels, Koji Uehara of the '13 Red Sox and John Wetteland of the 1996 Yankees.
The Royals' dominance is not, however, a one-man show. Forty-four times has a reliever worked at least 10 innings in a postseason and had an ERA below 1.00, including all three of Kansas City's contingent.
Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis both have a 0.79 ERA, each allowing one earned run in 11 1/3 innings. Holland is No. 43 on the list with a 0.90 ERA, having given up one run in 10 innings. The three have a combined 0.83 ERA.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who retired at the end of last season, has accounted for six of the 44 postseasons with a sub-1.00 ERA. He worked a relief-record 141 postseason innings in his career -- Rollie Fingers is second at 57 1/3 innings. Rivera compiled a 0.70 ERA, which ranked 12th all-time for a reliever with at least 10 postseason innings in his career.
Rivera is also the all-time leader in postseason saves with 42 in 47 opportunities. Lidge is second with 18 saves in 20 opportunities.
San Francisco's bullpen is also a team strength. Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt has a 20-inning postseason scoreless streak that dates back to Game 3 of the 2010 World Series. He has not been scored upon in 8 1/3 innings this year.
Closer Santiago Casilla has not allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings, and long man Yusmeiro Petit has parlayed nine shutout innings in two appearances into two victories.
Casilla, who has a postseason career ERA of 0.95, and Affeldt, who has a 0.96 ERA, rank among the top 17 for a reliever since the addition of the Wild Card in 1995. Tim Lincecum checks in at No. 6 on the list, having allowed one run in 15 innings during his seven postseason relief appearances.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy resisted the temptation to bring Madison Bumgarner back on three days of rest to start Game 4. Bumgarner is the ace of San Francisco's rotation, but having just turned 25 in August, he is also counted on to be a key part of the team's future. Bochy did not want to take a risk.
Bumgarner has made 159 big league starts, including 11 in the postseason, and he has never pitched on fewer than four days of rest. He already has been a workhorse this postseason. Bumgarner has started five of the Giants' 13 games -- equaling a franchise postseason record -- and he has worked 38 2/3 innings for 31 percent of club's total of 125 innings.
History has not been kind to teams using a starting pitcher on three days of rest since the addition of the Wild Card. Teams using a starter on short rest are 52-64.
Ryan Vogelsong, who will start Game 4 for the Giants, struggled in his start against the Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, giving up four runs in three innings. However, he started the NL Division Series clincher against the Nationals, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings of a 3-2 victory. Vogelsong also is 4-0 with a 1.17 ERA in the past nine games he has started against an AL team at AT&T Park, according to Stats Inc., LLC.
Only three Royals have faced Vogelsong in the big leagues: Nori Aoki (0-for-3), Omar Infante (9-for-13) and Josh Willingham (1-for-4).
The homegrown foundation of the Royals has handled itself well this postseason.
First baseman Eric Hosmer, the third player selected in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, has hit .359, second-best for players with at least 20 at-bats behind only Jon Jay of St. Louis, who hit .483. Hosmer also has nine RBIs, one behind postseason leader and teammate Alex Gordon, who was the second player taken in the '05 Draft.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas, the second player drafted in 2007, has hit four home runs, matching the Cards' Matt Carpenter for the tops this postseason. Moustakas also has hit .256 -- 44 points above his average during the '14 regular season.
In addition to Hosmer, Kansas City outfielder Lorenzo Cain (.318) and shortstop Alcides Escobar (.313) are among seven players with a batting average above .300 and at least 20 at-bats this postseason.
The Royals have the dominant bullpen that takes the burden off their rotation, which is averaging 5 1/3 innings in 11 games this postseason. Jason Vargas, the scheduled Game 4 starter, has worked 11 1/3 frames in his two starts -- both Kansas City wins.
Vargas has spent the past six years in the American League, limiting his exposure against NL teams to Interleague Play. In his career, he is 8-7 with a 4.08 ERA in 20 starts against NL teams. Vargas allowed two runs in five innings of a no-decision in the Royals' 4-2 victory over the Giants on Aug. 8 in Kansas City.
San Francisco's postseason roster has hit .338 against Vargas.