KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It was a statement based on a season's worth of experience, not cockiness.
"For me, the whole focus is just get through the sixth inning tied or with the lead so that we could get to those guys," Royals manager Ned Yost said Sunday of the back end of his bullpen. "If we have the lead, I feel like the game is over."
It played out that way in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series which, as a result, is nearly over as well.
The Royals grabbed the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday night, then watched their bullpen overwhelm the Orioles in a 2-1 victory in front of 40,183 at Kauffman Stadium.
"We take pride in expecting to win when we go to the bullpen," said closer Greg Holland, who pitched a perfect ninth, completing a streak of 16 straight Orioles retired to end the game. "We take it as a challenge. If it goes to a battle of the bullpens we take pride in coming out on top."
The Royals, ahead 3-0 in the best-of-seven series and 7-0 overall this postseason, can claim their first World Series berth since 1985 with a victory in Game 4, which is at 4:07 p.m. Wednesday.
"We're rolling as a team right now," said Eric Hosmer, who had two of the Royals' seven hits (the Orioles had just three).
"Guys are making tremendous plays defensively, pitchers are getting it done, bullpen's getting it done. Everybody on the team's getting it done."After Billy Butler's sacrifice fly in the sixth made it 2-1, Yost went to his familiar seventh-eighth-ninth combination.
First up: the hard-throwing righthander Kelvin Herrera, who struck out two of three batters with a fastball consistently hitting 99 mph.
Righty Wade Davis followed with a 1-2-3 eighth, striking out a batter. Holland, a righty who had 46 saves this season, closed it out in the ninth.
Entering the night, the Royals' bullpen, in the previous five postseason games, had allowed three runs over 21 innings for a 1.29 ERA.
"If we can get one under your belt and get a few things to work our way and make some things [happen] we feel like we can get it spinning the other way," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, whose team very easily could be up 3-0 in the series.
Kansas City righthander Jeremy Guthrie was solid, allowing one run and three hits over five innings. Righty Jason Frasor came on in the sixth and started the string of 16 straight retired.
"It's hard to take advantage of mistakes when they're not making any," Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce said.
Orioles lefthander Wei-Yin Chen allowed two runs and seven hits over 511/3 innings to take the loss.
Baltimore led 1-0 until the fourth when Lorenzo Cain started a rally by dumping a single to left, his second hit of the night to make him 8-for-10 in the series. He eventually came in on a bases-loaded groundout by Alex Gordon.
The Royals went ahead in the sixth when Nori Aoki led off with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Jarrod Dyson. Chen struck out Cain but Hosmer grounded a sharp single to right, which allowed Dyson to go first to third, putting runners at the corners. Showalter brought on righthander Kevin Gausman to face Butler. After taking a 98-mph strike on the first pitch, Butler lofted another 98-mph fastball to medium left, plenty deep enough to bring in Dyson for a 2-1 Kansas City lead.
"My whole mindset with Billy, try to find a way to get the ball in the air, score this run and we're going turn this over to Kelvin, Wade, and Holly," Yost said afterward. "Odds of us winning this game is going to be great."