World Series Game 3 Preview
The 2014 World Series will head to San Francisco tonight with things all knotted up after the Kansas City Royals defeated the San Francisco Giants 7-2 in Game Two Wednesday night in KC. The Game One score was just as lopsided with the Giants winning 7-1 behind another stellar performance from lefty Madison Bumgarner.
Wednesday night’s game had been tied at two until the sixth inning when the team’s bullpens came into play. The Royals have one of the best bullpens in baseball this season and they have continued to dominate this postseason, while the Giants’ bullpen has been spotty with long man Yusmeiro Petit being the brightest spot.
After Alcides Escobar doubled in a run in the bottom of the second to give the Royals the lead, San Francisco starter Jack Peavy retired the next 10 batters he faced. The historically poor postseason performer would end that streak though by allowing the first two Kansas City hitters to reach to start off the bottom of the sixth with the game tied.
With Billy Butler coming up for the Royals, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy called on Jean Machi who gave up a single to Butler which put the Royals ahead. Javier Lopez was then bought into the game to retire Alex Gordon, which he did. Bochy kept the changes coming with Salvador Perez due up, bringing Hunter Strickland in.
Strickland, who consistently touches 100 mph on the radar gun, was put on the Giants postseason roster after tossing just seven innings at the major league level in 2014. Despite picking up a save in the NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals in the longest postseason game ever played, his first taste of October did not go well. In three innings pitched in that series he gave up three home-runs before giving up another homer in inning pitched in the NL Championship Series.
Perez welcomed Strickland to the World Series by hitting a double to put the Royals up 5-2 before Omar Infante hit the fifth home-run against the right handed this postseason to move the score to 7-2. After an exchange of words occurred between Strickland and Perez, he was taken off the mound and Jeremy Affeldt became the fifth Giants pitcher of the inning.
It was just the third time in World Series history that five pitchers had been used in a single inning and the first time that many were used in a game other than Game Seven.
The Royals certainly would not be using five pitchers in an inning with a five run lead as that was more than enough for their bullpen. The dynamic trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland pitched three and two third innings allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out six. Herrera had relieved 23-year old Yordano Ventura in the sixth with two on and one out with the game tied. Herrera, who consistently touches 100 himself, got Kansas City out of the jam and Ventura ended up having a good night after allowing a lead-off home-run in the first inning to Gregor Blanco.
Now as the attention turns to San Francisco on Friday night the Royals are in much better shape than they would have been if they lost game two. The series is now essentially a best-of-five series which the Giants have home-field advantage in. But the Royals’ continue to have the same advantage they have all postseason, their bullpen.
Bochy has some things to think about in regards to his bullpen. There are questions about whether Strickland can be trusted anymore considering the home-runs he has allowed and the meltdown he had on the mound after Infante’s.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum finally made his first appearance postseason in the seventh and looked sharp, retiring the first five batters he faced. As questions began to arise if he could move into a larger role, he had to exit the game due to injury and his status going forward is questionable.
Petit has pitched nine innings in relief this postseason and has allowed just two hits and no runs. His six inning performance in the NLDS against the Nationals has some calling for him to start game four of the World Series for San Francisco, but he may be needed more in the bullpen. The question Bochy always faces with him however is should he save him for possible extra innings instead of just using him or an inning or two.
Meanwhile, KC manager Ned Yost can feel very comfortable about the late innings of games. Yost, who has come under fire for plenty of decisions made in the past, has a hard time mismanaging his bullpen because there are no bad options in it. The Royals bullpen has posted a 7-0 record this postseason and 1.81 collective ERA in 44 and two thirds innings pitched. They have also struck out 48 batters as a group.
Looking at the games coming up in this series, the biggest key for the Royals is just getting to the sixth inning at least tied.
In Game Three, Kansas City will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound against Tim Hudson. Guthrie pitched five innings of one run ball in the AL Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles after he had not pitched in a couple of weeks. Hudson, who has the most regular season wins among active pitchers, will make his first World Series start after allowing four runs in six and third innings against the Cardinals in the NLCS.
Game Four will feature a matchup between Jason Vargas for the Royals and Ryan Vogelsong for the Giants. Vargas pitched five and a third innings in the series clinching game of the ALCS allowing just one run and two hits. Vogelsong allowed four runs in just three innings in his lone start of the NLCS, before that start however he had allowed just three runs in 30 and a third prior postseason innings pitched.
Game Five would most likely feature a rematch of game one with James Shields taking the mound for the Royals and Bumgarner possibly going for the Giants. Shields struggled in the game allowing five runs over three innings while Bumgarner allowed just the first run of his World Series career.
The more important names to know for the next three games are Herrera, Davis, Holland, Petit and Strickland among others however. In a postseason in which bullpens have been heavily scrutinized, the Royals’ continues to be the team’s serious X-factor.
It was mentioned during Game Two that fans in Kansas City get excited to see the Royals’ starters leave games because they know that’s when the real fun begins. Game Two showed us again why that is and as this series heads to San Francisco the Royals are feeling good after being reminded yet again that they can win their first championship since 1985 in the late innings of games.