Can we retire James Shields's ill-fitting and co-opted nickname now?
In each of his postseason starts this season, James Shields has--and there isn't really another way to put this that adequately describes the quality of his performance--looked like shit. Over the course of his 32-pitch first inning, Shields gave up a lead-off single to Gregor Blanco, induced a second-pitch fly-out to deep center that advanced Blanco to second, allowed a 2-0 lined Buster Posey single to left, served up a Pablo Sandoval RBI-double to the corner in right in which the Giants gave up an out sending Posey home only to be thrown out easily on the relay throw from Omar Infante, left a fastball up and over the plate for Hunter Pence to crush to center for a two-run hung dong, and let Brandon Belt single to center before mercifully getting Michael Morse to strike out on a foul tip. If you thought that sentence was long, think how long that half-inning felt.
Before the Royals had even stepped to the plate, James Shields's struggles to dispatch of the Giants were responsible for a 3 - 0 deficit. Ultimately that was all the Giants would need, though their offense was far from done assaulting the Royals.
After Lorenzo Cain worked a two-out hit-by-pitch in the first only to be stranded on an Eric Hosmer screamer to deep center that Blanco snagged, Billy Butler led the second off with a single to left center. Unfortunately Alex Gordon lined out weakly to shortstop Brandon Crawford, and Salvador Perez hit into a 1-6-3 double play to erase the threat and the Royals' hopes in the second.
With James Shields working efficient if not convincing second and third innings, the Royals came to the plate in the bottom of the third still trailing by just three runs. Omar Infante kicked off the inning with a broken-bat grounder that took a weird hop and ate up Brandon Crawford, reaching on the error. Mike Moustakas following with a ripped liner into the corner that Hunter Pence fielded just cleanly enough to keep Infante at third with Moustakas coasting into second behind him. After Bumgarner struck out Alcides Escobar and Norichika Aoki consecutively, Lorenzo Cain worked a walk after falling into an 0-2 hole. Unfortunately, Eric Hosmer came up swinging on the first pitch, and he hit a routine grounder to second, ending the inning for the Royals and letting Bumgarner out of a no-out, two-on jam unscathed.
The squandering of that opportunity would haunt the Royals as they would never see a similar shot at getting back into the game.
Hunter Pence led off the fourth with a double past Mike Moustakas diving at the bag at third. With Brandon Belt at the plate, Shields spiked his change in the dirt, and Perez was unable to get down in front of it, having it carom off his leg and advancing the alert Pence to third. Belt eventually drew a walk, and Michael Morse followed with an RBI-single, driving the completely ineffective James Shields from Game 1 of the first World Series in Kansas City in 29 years.
Enter the maybe-injured Danny Duffy with runners on first and second. With a four-run lead and no outs in the fourth, Bruce Bochy strangely lifted Travis Ishikawa in left and pinch-hit with Juan Perez, who laid down a bunt to advance the runners to second and third. Attempting to summon the spirit of the bear that he stalked, shot, and skinned during his time spent not pitching during the ALCS, Duffy yearned for the strike zone but labored against Brandon Crawford--issuing a full-count walk--and then did the same to Gregor Blanco, walking in the fifth Giants run of the night. Pitching for the first time in 19 days, Duffy finally recorded an out that wasn't given to him by way of the bunt and blew one by Joe Panik before inducing a shallow fly ball up the right field line for the third out of the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth and now trailing by the score of 5 - 0, the Royals looked completely listless. Billy Butler popped out to second baseman Joe Panik in the grass behind first base. Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez succeeded him by looking overmatched in consecutive strikeouts at the hands of Madison Bumgarner.
While Duffy appeared to have reacclimated to the act of pitching when he came back out in the fifth, it was hard not to feel like the mystique was gone.
Jobu, witchcraft, divine intervention, whatever it was that propelled the Royals through the American League side of the playoffs without a loss appeared to have worn off. It wasn't that the struggles of Shields--whose ERA was a measly 5.63 this postseason before his 3.0+ IP, 5 ER meltdown tonight--surprised.
Some point to a pitcher reaching back for something extra when situations get dire, but the same pressure is on the bats to come through. The wood was flaccid on arrival.
Bumgarner dispatched of Infante, Moustakas, and Escobar with ease in the fifth. Duffy the Bear Killer matched Bumgarner with a 1-2-3 inning of his own--his second straight--but Bumgarner came right back and took care of Aoki, Cain, and Hosmer in short order to close out the frame in the sixth.
Duffy ran into a bit of trouble in the seventh as he issued a lead-off walk to turncoat Gregor Blanco and then got treated to some vintage Nori Aoki disastrous defense when he misjudged a Joe Panik liner that bounced right as he was closing on it. Aoki thought he'd have a play on it but ended up collapsing into a slide as the ball whipped right past him and back to the wall. With Panik standing on third and the sixth run crossing the plate, Yost went to Tim Collins in the pen, who got Posey to line right into Hosmer's glove for the first out of the inning. With the infield drawn in for the second straight batter, Sandoval hit a grounder just past the diving Escobar, and the Giants had their seventh run of the miserable evening. Collins uncorked a "wild pitch" that Perez failed to get down on allowing the second base runner to advance thanks to a ball in the dirt, and Pence followed up with a walk to put runners at first and second. Collins struck out Brandon Belt and got Michael Morse to fly out to Cain in shallow right center, but the Royals and their non-starting offense were down 7 - 0.
With two outs in the seventh and two hitters after Billy Butler sent one the other way to the warning track, Salvador Perez crushed a Bumgarner fastball into the bullpen in left to finally put the Royals on the board. Unfortunately, instead of being an eight-run home run, it was just a solo shot, so the Giants lead was simply trimmed to 7 - 1.
Sadly that was the entirety of the Royals' scoring. The Giants thoroughly and convincingly defeated the Royals tonight. Bumgarner, while not sharp the entire evening, was more than game to face the Royals. The Giants offense got to the Royals pitching early and made sure that the sterling back end of the bullpen were not a factor. If there was a game that the Royals were likely to lose, this was probably it.
It's been over three weeks since the Royals last lost. This feeling kinda sucks.