Fresh 'pen allows for KC's success in extras

Fresh 'pen allows for KC's success in extras

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' showdown with the Twins on Friday, a 5-4 win, was uncommon, for a number of reasons.

The game went 11 innings, giving the Royals three extra-inning games in one month since September 2015. The final out was recorded at 2:15 a.m. CT, the latest that manager Ned Yost remembers a game at Kauffman Stadium finishing. It was the Royals' eighth walk-off win of the season, tying them with the Astros for the most in the Majors, and it was the team's sixth straight win, another season high. It also marked the fourth straight year the Royals won for Yost's birthday, as the team notched its 62nd victory in a game that started on his 62nd birthday.

But there was one more thing that made the game unique. It was the first time in nearly a week that a Royals pitcher didn't make a quality start and just the second time since Aug. 3 that the starter worked fewer than six innings.

"[It helps] a lot, and it's going to be important tonight, too," Yost said of his starters' ability to go deep into games. "They've done a good job of balancing it out. Nobody's really been overused or overworked. That allows situations like [last night] to happen.

Yost had previously talked about the competitive nature of the Royals' pitching staff and how the players wanted to not only keep the string of good starts intact, but to one-up the performance from the day before.

But there's another part to the equation. With closer Wade Davis still sidelined, the Royals are missing a huge piece of their bullpen.

The starters have done their part to make up for it, thus leaving the bullpen fresh when called upon for the three extra-inning games the team has played since the start of the month.

"You want to make sure you do your best ... to take care of your boys in the bullpen," left-hander Danny Duffy said.

And the hitters are just as appreciative. Without the pressure of falling behind right from the jump, they've been able to lock in and wait for their opportunities, even if they present themselves late.

In all three games against Detroit earlier this week, the Royals were unable to score more than one run over the first four innings, but the pitching was there, and it has been throughout the series against the Twins.

"There's no pressure in this room," shortstop Alcides Escobar said. "We're playing really good right now, and the team is doing way better, too."

• It's been nearly a month since Davis last pitched in a game, and he is slowly working his way back to returning. He officially came off the disabled list on Aug. 12 but has taken things slowly after suggesting that he may have rushed back from an earlier stint on the DL.

Davis threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Aug. 16. He has thrown several sessions since, and will be facing batters shortly.

"He's going to travel to Arizona and throw a live BP and see how he does there," Yost said. "He's feeling good."

Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.