KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It was a statement based on a season's worth of experience, not cockiness.
"You know, 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 dominant bullpen slam the door on the Orioles in a 2-1 victory in front of 40,183 at Kauffman Stadium.
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.
Royals pitchers retired the final 16 batters they faced.
After Billy Butler's sacrifice fly in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie, Yost went to his familiar seventh-eighth-ninth combination.
First up was hard-throwing righthander Kelvin Herrera, who set down the Orioles in order. He struck out the second batter he faced, Ryan Flaherty, on three straight 99-mph fastballs and the third, Nick Hundley, on a 98-mph heater.
Righty Wade Davis followed with a 1-2-3 eighth, striking out a batter. Righthander Greg Holland, who had 46 saves this season, closed it out with a perfect 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.
Kansas City righthander Jeremy Guthrie, making his first start since Sept. 26, 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 Orioles hitters.
Orioles lefthander Wei-Yin Chen allowed two runs and seven hits over 51/3 innings to take the loss.
Baltimore took an early lead in a 25-pitch second inning for Guthrie. After he retired the O's in order on 11 pitches in the first, Steve Pearce, 0-for-9 the first two games of the series, ripped a double into the gap in left-center. J.J. Hardy followed by lining a 1-and-1 pitch into the gap in right-center for an RBI double.
Chen controlled the Royals until the fourth. After Nori Aoki grounded out, Lorenzo Cain dumped a single to left, his second hit of the night making him 8-for-10 in the series. Eric Hosmer followed with his own bloop single, this one also to left, putting two on for Butler. The designated hitter got ahead 3-and-1 and worked a five-pitch walk, loading the bases for Alex Gordon. The leftfielder, 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game 2 and 0-for-1 with a strikeout to that point in Game 3, hit a grounder to second that brought in Cain to tie it at 1-1.
The Royals threatened again and went ahead in the sixth. Aoki led off with a single to left and was replaced by pinch runner specialist, 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. Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided that was enough for Chen after 80 pitches, bringing 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.
It was, as Yost predicted, all but over.