What a difference a week makes. After starting 0-2, the Royals won their third game against the Chicago White Sox. Next, they took two of three from the Phillies and swept the Twins in three games. Now the Royals are 6-3 and first place in the A.L. Central. The offense is scoring runs, the defense only has one error and the starting rotation is pitching well, despite giving up a combined nine home runs.
But the anchor of the bullpen, Greg Holland, isn’t pitching well. In four games over three innings, Holland faced 20 batters and threw 82 pitches, 43 of them strikes. He gave up five hits, four runs, six walks and five strikeouts. Last Saturday, he blew a save against the Phillies by walking three and giving up a walk-off double. Last Tuesday night against the Twins, Holland threw 27 pitches and faced six batters in the rain before getting his second save.
Royals manager Ned Yost hasn’t gave up on Holland and it’s not time to panic yet, despite Holland’s trouble finding the strike zone. Early last year, an injured rib cage affected his performance. After Holland recovered, he posted a 2.08 ERA and became the Royals closer after the Royals shipped Jonathan Broxton to the Reds. If Holland continues to struggle, Yost has a good backup closer in Kelvin Herrera, who’s fared well this season.
Wade Davis isn’t struggling like Holland, but his first two starts haven’t been stellar. In last Friday’s game against Philadelphia, Davis only pitched four innings, throwing 76 pitches, facing 19 batters and giving up nine hits, and four runs, two of those home runs. He also struck out two and didn’t walk anybody. The Royals ended up winning the game 13-4, so his performance didn’t hurt the team. For his second start, Davis pitched five innings, throwing 96 pitches, giving up four hits and three walks. But he struck out six and held the Twins scoreless, getting the win.
Davis needs to adjust to the starting rotation after pitching out of the bullpen with the Tampa Bay Rays last year. His next couple of starts will show if Davis becomes an effective starter or is better suited as a reliever.
After the 0-2 start, it’s good to see the Royals playing well and leading the A.L. Central. And Holland and Davis’ issues are minor. But the Royals have tough upcoming series against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves, followed by the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers. It’s not getting easier for the Royals and the team’s success may depend on the performance of Holland and Davis.