World Series: Wild Sixth Inning Lifts Royals Over Giants
Score: Royals 7 – Giants 2
Series: Series tied 1-1
Game Hero: Billy Butler; 2-3, 2 RBI singles, game-winning RBI
Game Summary: For the first time since the eighth inning of the AL Wild Card game, the Kansas City Royals found themselves facing adversity during the post-season. Already down 1-0 in the best-of-seven series, the Royals were in a must-win situation in Game Two of the World Series. With a rookie on the mound, the Royals could have crumbled when San Francisco Giants’ outfielder Gregor Blanco led-off the game with a solo homerun. Instead, the Royals hit their way back into the series with an impressive 7-2 victory.
Blanco made Giants’ history on Wednesday night when he sent a 3-2 pitch from Yordano Ventura into the stands in right-field, becoming the first San Francisco Giants’ hitter to lead-off a World Series game with a homerun. Blanco and the Giants looked like they were picking up where they left off on Tuesday, when they thumped the Royals in a 7-1 Game One win. Ventura didn’t let the Blanco blast unravel him, however, and his teammates picked him up immediately.
The bottom of the first began with Alcides Escobar reaching on an infield single to short. After Nori Aoki flew out, Escobar was caught stealing and it looked like the Royals would go quietly in the first. Instead, ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain re-ignited the inning with a double. Eric Hosmer walked and Billy Butler followed with a run-scoring single to tie the game at one.
The Royals then took their first lead of the series in the bottom of the second. With one-out, Omar Infante doubled. Escobar then came to the plate with two-outs and Infante still at second. The Royals’ shortstop inside-outed a pitch into the right-field corner, scoring Infante easily with the RBI double.
The game remained 2-1 Kansas City until the top of the fourth when the Giants used two doubles of their own to tie the game. Pablo Sandoval led-off the inning with a double. He remained at second on a Hunter Pence groundout, but Brandon Belt was able to bring Sandoval home with a double to right. The Giants wouldn’t add on in the inning, in large part because of a base-running mistake by Belt. Michael Morse hit a pop-fly out to right. Aoki caught the ball easily and fired back into the infield. Belt had tagged up and took a few steps off second anticipating a bad throw. When Aoki’s throw did skip away, Belt took off momentarily towards third. He realized too late that he wasn’t going to make it to third in time and was cut down trying to return to second, ending the inning and the scoring threat.
In the top of the sixth, the Giants once again had an opportunity to regain the lead. Buster Posey led-off the inning with a single and, with one out, he moved to second on a Pence single. At that point, Royals’ manager Ned Yost elected to call on set-up man Kelvin Herrera, one of his three lethal backend relievers. Herrera did the job, retiring Belt on a flyout and Morse on a force at second. That closed the book on Ventura, who was hit around a bit, but managed to keep the Giants from breaking the game open. In 5.1 innings, he allowed two runs on eight hits. Ventura only struck-out two, but he didn’t walk anyone.
The game turned in the bottom of the sixth. Giants’ starter Jake Peavy entered the inning having retired 10 batters in a row, but Cain blooped a single into center to start the inning. Peavy then walked Hosmer on a 3-2 pitch and Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy elected to go to the bullpen. He brought in right-hander Jean Machi, who immediately fell behind Butler, 2-0. Machi had to come in with a fastball and Butler was ready, lining a hard single to left. Cain got an excellent read on Butler’s liner, taking off from second immediately and scoring easily to give the Royals the 3-2 lead.
The Royals weren’t done with the one run. Bochy again went to the bullpen, this time calling on lefty Javier Lopez to face Alex Gordon. Lopez retired Gordon on a flyout, and Bochy returned to the mound for a third time, bringing in rookie right-hander Hunter Strickland to face right-handers Salvador Perez and Omar Infante. Strickland came into the Series having allowed four homeruns during the post-season already, and his struggles continued on Wednesday. While facing Perez, Strickland quickly got ahead in the count, 0-2, but he uncorked a slider that bounced well in front of the plate and scooted away from Posey, moving up both runners. On the next pitch, Strickland grooved a 97 MPH fastball and Perez lined it to deep left center for a two-RBI double.
Two pitches later, the game took a turn for the bizarre. On a 1-0 pitch, Strickland again threw a 97 MPH fastball down the middle and Infante didn’t miss it, slugging it over the wall in left for a two-run homer. As Infante was circling the bases, Perez and Strickland got into a screaming match. Many of the Royals left the dugout but the situation was dissipated without punches being thrown. Strickland was then taken out of the game in favor of Jeremy Affeldt with the score now 7-2.
The bottom of the sixth took more than 30 minutes and the delay was enough to impact Herrera some as he came back out for the top of the seventh. He quickly retired Travis Ishikawa on a strike-out swinging, but then lost the strike-zone for a few batters. Herrera walked Crawford and Blanco and fell behind Joe Panik before fighting back to retire Panik on a soft fly out to center. Herrera then retired Posey on a groundout to second, ending the Giants’ last threat of the night.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Giants called on former Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, who had yet to pitch out of the bullpen this post-season despite the struggles of Machi and Strickland. Lincecum retired the first five batters he faced and had two strikes on Perez in the bottom of the eighth when he had to leave the game with a lower back injury. Before the injury, Lincecum looked poised to move back into a higher-leverage role with the Giants for the rest of the Series, but San Francisco will have to see how quickly he can recover from the back discomfort.
As for the Royals, the rest of the game went according to their script. After Herrera finished the seventh, Wade Davis took over in the eighth and had a one-two-three inning with two strike-outs. Closer Greg Holland followed in the ninth and allowed just a two-out single while striking out the side to end the game.
What’s Next: The Series has an off-day on Thursday and resumes on Friday in San Francisco. The Giants will send Tim Hudson to the mound to face Jeremy Guthrie. Both veteran right-handers will be making their World Series debuts.