HOUSTON (AP) – The Kansas City Royals figure their offense will come around sooner or later. Until then, they’re happy to rely on a bullpen that keeps helping them eke out close wins.
Bruce Chen pitched into the sixth inning on three days’ rest and the Royals used four relievers to close out a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
Alex Gordon tripled and scored for Kansas City, which took two of three from the Astros and has won seven of nine overall. Thirteen of Kansas City’s last 14 games have been decided by two or fewer runs, including six one-run games.
Manager Ned Yost smiled when asked what all these close games are doing to him.
“I’m fine. Piece of cake. We had them all the way,” he said.
Chen (6-6) struck out six in 5 2-3 innings and was charged with one run and five hits. Pitching on three days’ rest for the sixth time in his career, Chen bounced back from his last outing when he yielded six runs and seven hits in just 1 2-3 innings against St. Louis, but still received a no-decision in the Royals’ 10-7 loss.
Houston put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth, but Jonathan Broxton struck out Brian Bixler and retired Jordan Schafer to earn his 18th save in 21 chances.
“They’ve been doing it all year and once again they came up big today,” Gordon said of the bullpen. “A 2-1 win, it feels like we’ve been doing that all year. I swear one of these days our offense is going to get rolling and we’re going to start giving the bullpen a rest. Hopefully it will come soon.”
Yost was impressed with Broxton’s poise in the ninth.
“The thing about him is he doesn’t panic,” Yost said. “He stays calm and continues to make pitches.”
Kansas City’s pitchers have been particularly good late in games, posting a major league-best 1.31 ERA in the ninth inning or later. That performance has helped make up for an offense that has scored the second-fewest runs in the American League.
“We’ll start putting some big numbers up, but these wins are important, too,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “These 2-1 wins, these nail-biters give us a lot of momentum going home.”
Houston starter Jordan Lyles (1-4) gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings. He has bounced around between the Astros and Triple-A Oklahoma City this season.