Royals notch highest win total since '93
Holland nails down record 46th save to close out milestone victory
By Dick Kaegel /9/27/2013 12:38 AM ET
CHICAGO -- It's a day after the Royals were eliminated from the postseason picture, but they're still having significant moments.
When they defeated the Chicago White Sox, 3-2, on Thursday night, the Royals put up their 84th victory -- their highest win total in 20 years. They haven't done so well since since posting an 84-78 record in 1993.
That's seen as another indication that Kansas City is a club on the rise.
"We feel like we're right there," manager Ned Yost said. "We've had a great year in terms of experience and tasting what it tastes like to win, what it feels like to be in a playoff chase, to be a playoff contender. Once you taste it, you don't ever want to stop tasting it."
There were other meaningful milestones.
Closer Greg Holland pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 46th save, setting a franchise record. He had shared the previous record of 45 with Dan Quisenberry, 1983, and Jeff Montgomery, 1993.
Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie went seven innings for his 15th victory, becoming just the third Royals pitcher to reach that level since 1997. Paul Byrd won 17 in 2002 and Zack Greinke 16 in 2009.
The pitching staff set a franchise record with 1,180 strikeouts, beating last year's mark of 1,177. Reliever Luke Hochevar notched the record-breaker in his scoreless eighth inning and Holland added two more strikeouts in the ninth.
"They're all pushing and they all want to finish strong," Yost said. "They've got that mindset that they want to push to the end."
David Lough hammered a two-run homer in the fourth inning against White Sox starter Andre Rienzo. Mike Moustakas was on base with his second hit when Lough drove a 2-0 pitch into the right-field stands. The two runs ended a 21-inning scoreless stretch that included two shutouts at Seattle.
The White Sox, though, gained a 2-2 tie after six innings as both Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn belted solo home runs off Guthrie. Dunn's was a monster smash to right field estimated at 442 feet.
However, as Yost pointed out: "Two bunts changed the game."
Rienzo pitched six innings, but when Justin Maxwell opened the seventh with a single, left-hander Donnie Veal came out of the White Sox bullpen. Lough bunted safely and so did George Kottaras. Catcher Bryan Anderson, after fielding Kottaras' bunt, heaved the ball high over first base and Maxwell scored on the error for a 3-2 lead that would hold.
Guthrie pitched seven innings to gain his 15th win, four more than ever before in his career. He also reached a career-high 211 2/3 innings in his final start.
"Wins for the most part can be attributed to the guys around you," Guthrie said. "It's a team effort and I'm really pleased to have helped the team win games and then get credit for it 15 times."
Holland, in his 67th game this year, struck out both Konerko and Dunn to start the ninth inning and, after Avisail Garcia singled, he got Dayan Viciedo to foul out and end the game.
So Holland passed Quisenberry and Montgomery, both members of the Royals Hall of Fame.
"Any time you're mentioned with guys that were great, that's pretty special," Holland said, "but when you're out there on the mound, you're just thinking about saving the game for the guys because they've played their butts off and they've done it all year, so it's been a lot of fun."
Coming off back-to-back shutout losses at Seattle and the disappointment of having their playoff hopes dashed, the Royals still were grinding.
"We want to sprint to the finish line," Guthrie said. "That's the type of roster we have -- guys that won't pack it in because we have no chance to make the playoffs. There are a lot of things we're playing for. We'd like to win as many games as we can so hopefully we'll come out and play three more really hard games."
"You can't give up," Kottaras said. "Our job is to play 162 games. No matter what happens, we definitely gave it a great effort this year. It didn't work out in our favor, but it's definitely something to build on and a lot of great things have happened this year."
Some of them happened on Thursday night. And Holland saw a big underlying reason for the growing list of accomplishments.
"That's the best part of the situation," he said. "We've played good baseball."