MIAMI -- The Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series in part because of their outstanding bullpen. And the Royals, are at it again, leading the majors with a 2.75 ERA in relief inning.
The Miami Marlins, hoping to emulate that model, put together a phenomenal stretch from Wednesday to Sunday, pitching 15 consecutive scoreless innings of relief while allowing a total of only two hits. That has led to three straight wins, including a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
With Miami concluding its four-game series against the Colorado Rockies on Monday, the bullpen will attempt to continue its positive role.
For the season, the Marlins' bullpen, which had a rough start this year, has moved up to 13th in the majors with a 3.70 ERA. In addition, Miami ranks 11th in batting average allowed (.234).
"If we're going to get battle-tested, we might as well get it out of the way early," Marlins reliever Dustin McGowan said of Miami's bullpen improving after that rough patch early. "It makes it better for later on, when you need to get through a tough situation but you have already been tested."
Monday's starting pitchers, right-hander Paul Clemens of Miami and left-hander Jorge De La Rosa of Colorado indicate the series finale might be another major test of the respective bullpens.
That's because De La Rosa (7.61 ERA) has struggled to go deep into games this season. And Clemens will be making his 2016 debut, having been recalled from the minors. But in his career, Clemens, 28, is just 4-8 with a 5.51 ERA.
Colorado's bullpen ranks 26th in the majors with a 4.61 ERA, and that seemingly giving Miami an advantage in this type of battle.
So, just how good is the Miami bullpen?
The answer, honestly, is that Miami has been surprisingly good, but this may not be sustainable.
Miami's best arm Carter Capps, had elbow surgery before the season started, which was a crushing blow for the Marlins, who lost his wipeout fastball.
In addition, Miami played the first two months without Mike Dunn, its only reliable left-hander in the bullpen.
On May 26, the Marlins also lost veteran reliever Bryan Morris.
Because of those injuries, Miami struggled to find the right bullpen mix, making 25 roster moves that involved relievers and that was from May 2 to June 5.
For now, at least, the Marlins have settled on the following seven-man bullpen staff:
A.J. Ramos, a 29-year-old in his second year as a closer, has been solid. He's a high-wire act at times, and he doesn't have Capps' stuff, but has produced good results. He had 32 saves and a 2.30 ERA last year and this year, he is 21-for-21 in saves and has a 1.98 ERA.
David Phelps, 29, has been a revelation this year, making a smooth transition from mediocre fifth starter/long reliever to effective eighth-inning setup man. He has a 2.08 ERA and leads the pitching staff with 34 appearances. For his career, Phelps is 23-26 with a 4.11 ERA, an indication of his prior mediocrity before finding himself in this new role.
Dunn, the bullpen's only lefty, has a 2.84 ERA. He is in his sixth season in essentially having the same role and is the dean of Miami's bullpen. He pitched in at least 60 games in each of his previous five years with the team. His return from the disabled list has helped solidify the bullpen.
McGowan is another of the Marlins under-the-radar guys. He is a former first-round pick but that was a long time ago, in 2000, No. 33 overall for the Toronto Blue Jays. He made his major-league debut in 2005 but has been mediocre with a 4.58 career ERA. He didn't pitch in the majors in 2009 and 2010 and got just five games in 2011. He started this year in the minors but has put together a 2.52 ERA since the Marlins recalled him on May 11.
Is that sustainable? Know this: McGowan has had a sub-4.00 ERA just once in his career, and that was in 2013 in Toronto.
The Marlins have filled out their bullpen with three young right-handers: Brian Ellington, 25, Nick Wittgren, 25, and Kyle Barraclough, 26.
All three have contributed solid ERAs despite starting the season in the minors: 0.00 for Ellington, 2.76 for Wittgren and 2.89 for Barraclough.
"They've got a good bullpen," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "They have a knack for finding those power arms and putting them in the bullpen. They certainly have a nice bullpen right now."