Royals Script A Game Three Win

Decent starting pitching + timely offense + good defense + an impenetrable bullpen = post-season wins. That has been the formula for the Kansas City Royals throughout their October run and they put it to good use again in their Game Three World Series win over the San Francisco Giants on Friday night.

World Series: Royals Take Early Lead, Let Bullpen Do The Rest

Score: Royals 3 – Giants 2

Series: Royals lead series 2-1

Game Hero: Alcides Escobar, 2-4, 2 R

Game Summary: The World Series hasn’t changed the Kansas City Royals or their formula for winning. But when that formula needed a slight tweak in Game Three, KC still found a way to beat the San Francisco Giants.

All season, the Royals have used the trio of Kelvin Herrera-Wade Davis-Greg Holland to close out wins. However, on Friday night, the Royals needed to call on Herrera in the sixth rather than the seventh. When Herrera ran into a little bit of trouble in the bottom of the seventh, Royals’ manager Ned Yost went a bit off script, bringing in rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan to get the final two outs of the seventh. Finnegan got the job done and, after that, the Royals returned to the script, going to Davis and Holland to close out the crucial Game Three win.

Before the Royals could get to their bullpen, they needed to build an early lead. For the first time in the series, Kansas City scored first. To start the game, Alcides Escobar hit the first World Series pitch ever thrown by Giants’ starter Tim Hudson into left-field for a double. Escobar moved to third on a groundball to the right side by Alex Gordon and then came around to score on an RBI groundout from Lorenzo Cain.

Until the sixth inning, that manufactured run would represent all of the scoring in the game. Hudson and Royals’ starter Jeremy Guthrie traded zeros until the sixth inning. Both starters used their sinkers effectively. Hudson got 12 outs on the ground, while Guthrie recorded five.

In the top of the sixth, the Royals put together a rally that would end-up being the difference in the game. Guthrie led-off the inning with a groundout, but Escobar singled on a grounder to center. That brought the left-handed hitting Gordon to the plate. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy got left-hander Javier Lopez up in the bullpen, but he had just started to warm up when Hudson threw a 1-0 pitch to Gordon, who is one of the best low-ball hitters in baseball. Gordon crushed the offering to deep center, over the head of centerfielder Gregor Blanco for an RBI double, giving the Royals a 2-0 lead.

Hudson recovered to retire Cain on a groundout to third and he was lifted from the game at that point for Lopez, who came in to face the left-handed hitting Eric Hosmer. Hosmer and Lopez engaged in a battle for the ages. On pitch 11 of the at-bat Hosmer lined a pitch to center, scoring Gordon. The Hosmer hit closed the book on Hudson, who was charged with three runs in 5.2 innings pitched.

With Herrera, Davis and Holland looming, the Giants’ 3-0 deficit looked insurmountable going into the bottom of the seventh. However, the Giants made a run at overcoming those odds. Guthrie started the inning by allowing a single to shortstop Brandon Crawford. Michael Morse then came to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the pitcher’s spot and he came through with a groundball double down the left-field line, scoring Crawford.

The Morse double ended Guthrie’s World Series debut. Yost turned to Herrera an inning earlier than normal to get through the sixth. Herrera walked Blanco, putting runners at first and second with none out. Joe Panik grounded back to Herrera, moving the runners to second and third. That brought to the plate former NL MVP Buster Posey, who had a chance to tie the game with a base-hit. Instead, Herrera got Posey to ground-out to second. That made the score 3-2. Pablo Sandoval was the next to have a chance to tie the game. Riding a 25-game post-season on-base streak, Sandoval was unable to come through this time, grounding out to first to end the inning.

From the seventh inning on, the game was in the hands of both teams’ bullpens and both were up to the task. Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla kept the game close for San Francisco, combining to toss three scoreless innings in relief of Lopez and Hudson.

Although the lead was just one run, the Royals were so confident in their late-inning relievers that they let Herrera hit for himself with a runner on first with two-outs in the top of the seventh. He struck-out.

In the bottom of the seventh, San Francisco outfielder Hunter Pence drew a walk against Herrera to start the inning. Yost stuck with Herrera to face the lefty Brandon Belt, and Herrera came through by striking Belt out swinging. With lefties Travis Ishikawa and Crawford scheduled to hit, Yost decided to turn to the rookie southpaw Finnegan rather than stay with Herrera for a seventh or eighth batter. Bochy countered with right-handed pinch-hitter Juan Perez to hit for Ishikawa. Finnegan – the first player in MLB history to pitch in both the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same season – retired Perez on a flyout to left and then got Crawford to strike-out swinging to end the inning.

Davis and Holland took it from there. Davis put together a dominant outing in the bottom of the eighth, striking out Joaquin Arias on a called strike, retiring Blanco on a bunt that catcher Salvador Perez made a nice, barehanded play on, and striking out Panik swinging. Holland then had the tall task of facing the heart of the Giants’ order in the bottom of the ninth. He made quick work of Posey, Sandoval and Pence, needing just eight pitches to retire the side in order.

Sandoval’s playoff on-base streak ended at 25. Guthrie, who allowed two runs in 5+ innings, became the first starter to earn a win in the World Series without striking out or walking a batter.

What’s Next: After the game, Bochy announced that scheduled starter Ryan Vogelsong will be the Game Four starter for San Francisco rather than scheduled Game Five starter Madison Bumgarner. There was speculation before the game that the Giants would go with Bumgarner on short rest so that he would be available to start a possible Game Seven. Instead, he will go on regular rest in Game Five. Vogelsong will face left-hander Jason Vargas in Game Four.

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