Kansas City's relief corps has been the team's biggest strength for much of the season, and it has the numbers to prove it, particularly when it comes to punchouts.
The Royals led all American League bullpens with 412 strikeouts entering play Sunday, 42 more than the next closest team, Toronto. Colorado, with 420, is the only Major League team with more.
"The word's out on our 'pen," manager Ned Yost said. "You talk to any team about our team, and they don't want our bullpen involved in it. And they know that if our bullpen gets involved that it's going to be real difficult for them to do any damage. The word's definitely out. I wouldn't know if it's an intimidation, but it's an admiration for what they can do."
Now, the Royals 'pen has had plenty of opportunities to rack up the big numbers. Coming into Sunday, its 427 2/3 innings pitched led the AL and ranked second in the bigs. But even lately, with an improvement in starting pitching performances, the KC relievers have kept sending opposing hitters back to the bench.
Royals starters have lasted at least six innings in each of the last five games, yet the bullpen has still combined for 22 strikeouts.
Tim Collins set a franchise record earlier in the homestand for the most strikeouts in a single season by a left-handed reliever. Of the last eight outs he's recorded, all have come via the strikeout. Entering play Sunday, Collins, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera all ranked in the top 17 in baseball in relief strikeouts.
"I think we've got a lot of guys with a lot of good stuff," reliever Aaron Crow said. "Tim, Kelvin and Greg, especially, they seem always to get a lot of strikeouts. I think it's a testament to the scouting reports that we have, sticking to it, going out there and pounding the strike zone with good stuff."