Guthrie wants more taste of big games

Guthrie wants more taste of big games

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie looks back at the wild and eventful 2014 season, he recalls one regular-season game in particular that was virtually pushed aside in people's minds because of the terrific October run the team went on.

That game was on Sept. 26 in Chicago, the night the Royals clinched their first playoff berth since 1985 with a 3-1 win over the White Sox in which Guthrie tossed seven shutout innings.

"For me, one of the great highlights was pitching that game in Chicago," he said. "With the magical run we had after that, that game kind of gets lost, which it should.

"But to me, that was a playoff game in the utmost sense of the word. I'd never pitched in a game in my career that really mattered as much as that."

When it was over, Guthrie made sure to keep as many mementos as he could.

"I kept everything from that game," he said, smiling. "I kept the dirt off my spikes, my spikes, my hat. Everything. That game meant a lot to me."

It was just one of many pressurized triumphs for Guthrie down the stretch in 2014. While his teammate, James Shields, was the man everyone called "Big Game James," it really was "Big Game Guthrie" time in August and September.

"He was a guy that really came through for us down the stretch," manager Ned Yost said.

Guthrie went 8-3 with a 3.06 ERA in the final two months last season, including a 4-1 record with a 2.40 ERA in September.

"I feel like I was prepared down the stretch," he said. "I'm usually good at the end of seasons. I prepare for that. There's great satisfaction for me in that.

"I've been the pitcher of the month just twice with the Royals, but they've both been in September. Even as a kid, I always prided myself as being the one who was sprinting toward the finish line and really finishing each time. That means something to me because it was the last month."

Guthrie's clutch outings started on Aug. 1 in Oakland when he threw six shutout innings in a tense 1-0 win that launched a 5-1 road trip. In September, he stopped a Royals' skid with a big 7-1 win over Boston. In his next start, Guthrie helped the Royals avoid a home sweep at the hands of the Tigers with a 5-2 victory.

And, then, of course, came the playoff clincher in Chicago.

Still, even now, Guthrie tends to get dismissed by national observers and talk-show hosts as just the fifth starter for the Royals, perhaps the weakest link in the rotation.

Yost doesn't see it that way.

"I don't view anyone here as a fifth starter and certainly not him," Yost said. "They're all just part of a rotation. The order doesn't matter."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @jflanagankc. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.