Can the Royals’ bullpen get even better? Luke Hochevar set to return from Tommy John surgery

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Tonight the Royals’ MLB-best bullpen and its 1.00 ERA are expected to get closer Greg Holland back from the disabled list and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports that they’re also likely to get setup man Luke Hochevar back this weekend.

Hochevar missed all of last season following Tommy John elbow surgery and was a terrible starter from 2007-2012, but the former No. 1 overall pick thrived after shifting to the bullpen full time in 2013 with a 1.92 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 70 innings.

If he returns to pick up anywhere near where he left off the Royals’ bullpen is going to be ridiculously scary, with Holland ranking as one of the elite closers in baseball and his setup men consisting of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales, Jason Frasor, and Hochevar.

Yankees keep ALCS hopes alive with 4-1 win over Astros

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The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.

In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.

Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).

Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.

With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.