SAN FRANCISCO — It was bound to happen eventually. Relief pitchers aren't perfect, you know. Not even the Kansas City Royals' highly touted HDH bullpen that's helped them get this far in the postseason.
That's Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland, the lockdown trio that, if things are going right, if the Royals are winning, Ned Yost calls out for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Combined they'd given up three runs the entire postseason — one in the AL wild-card game, one in the ALDS and one in the ALCS.
Things weren't going right Sunday night in Game 5 of the World Series, but Yost called them anyway. He had no choice. He couldn't let the Giants get further ahead. But they did — because for the first time this postseason, HDH cracked. Well, Herrera and Davis did. They let in three runs (two earned) in the eighth inning, letting a 2-0 Giants lead become a 5-0 Royals loss.
"We know sometimes we're going to give up runs," Herrera said, though he'd gone the longest. He last allowed a run on Sept. 30 in the wild-game game against the A's.
Herrera had pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innings since then, allowing just two hits. There had been some concern that Herrera was being overworked. He'd pitched more than an inning in this last three appearances, and Yost asked him to do that again Sunday.
Despite a walk in the seventh, Herrera did fine, getting three outs in three batters after Buster Posey hit into a double play. When Herrera came back out for the eighth, though, he gave up back-to-back singles to Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence to start the inning.
He was pulled for Davis, who struck out the first batter he faced, but then allowed a deep double to center to light-hitting Juan Perez. That brought two runs home and Perez advanced to third on a throwing error by Alcides Escobar. Then Brandon Crawford — him again — singled off Davis to bring home Perez.
These things happen in eighth innings. But they don't usually happen to the 2014 Royals. Herrera, Davis and Holland each had an ERA under 1.50 this season, they were historically stingy. They were the best bullpen in baseball, and rarely did they show weakness.
The question is inevitable now: They cracked in Game 5, will HDH crack again? How crucial can that be now that the Royals have to play must-win baseball? Is their confidence shaken?
"No, no, no," Herrera said. "Tuesday, I'm going to go with full confidence."
For the Royals' sake, maybe this was the bound-to-happen flub and now it's out of their system.
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