Generally, 'Vintage Royals' isn't a phrase you want to hear. Generally, that causes something resembling a sports version of PTSD, something that brings to mind shortstops blithely dropping routine popups, outfield collisions, throws towards home that immediately smash a teammate in the face, and years of losing and dashed hope. World Series Game 2 was a different kind of vintage. It contained vintage 2009-2013 Billy Butler, a hit machine with a penchant for high-pressure scores. It contained vintage 2011 Salvador Perez, the catcher with immense offensive promise and power. More importantly, it destroyed the necessity for 'vintage' being applied to the World Series, as the Kansas City Royals beat the San Fransisco Giants 7-2 in Game 2 of the Fall Classic, evening the series to 1-1.
As is generally the case with 2014 Royals playoff games, the contest did not begin well. Gregor Blanco, former Royal and current Royals killer, led off the game and worked a full count. Royals starter Yordano Ventura threw him a fastball which was blasted, a no doubter, to right field. Before any outs could be recorded, the Giants led 1-0. Ventura didn't allow any more damage, thankfully, but a home run is a home run.
The Royals, showing their resiliency so prevalent in October, immediately responded in the bottom of the first. Alcides Escobar led off with a sharply hit ball that Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford couldn't handle, and just like that there was one on with no outs against Giants starter Jake Peavy. However, Escobar was thrown out by Buster Posey on an attempted steal of second base. Nori Aoki flied out, but Lorenzo Cain smashed a two-out double, Eric Hosmer worked a walk, and Butler hit a low line drive to score Cain. Tie game at 1-1. Then, in the second inning, doubles by Omar Infante and Escobar scored another run, and the Royals led 2-1.
The fourth inning was an odd one. Pablo Sandoval crushed a fastball to deep center field, a home run in many ballparks, and a ball not gotten to by many centerfielders. Cain, however, didn't get a good read, and though he got to the ball and put a glove on it, he couldn't reign it in. Hunter Pence grounded out, which was a normal play, but then Brandon Belt hit a double to right field. Aoki booted the ball, allowing the slow Sandoval to score. Tie game at 2-2. On the very next batter, Aoki caught a flyball and then threw to the infield. It was off the mark, and after bouncing off of Escobar's glove, Belt took off for third base. Ventura quickly picked up the ball and threw Belt out...at second base, as Belt reacted, but not quite quickly enough.
As is also often the case with the postseason, the KC starter struggled in the sixth inning. After Ventura gave up back-to-back singles to Posey and Pence, which prompted Ned Yost to lift him for Kelvin Herrera, who escaped the jam without any damage.
By this point, the Royals had played a somewhat sloppy game. Escobar thrown out at second, Aoki's two misplays, Cain's misplay, Gordon's first-pitch popout with men on base, Ventura's shaky start...it was a close game, and the Royals were tied, but it was tense.
And then the magic happened.
Until the sixth inning of this game, most of the Royals Magic of the postseason was lost. But all at once, it came out in force. Cain started off with a bloop single, continuing his hot streak. Hosmer walked for the second time in the game, and the Giants removed Peavy for Jean Machi. And Butler, he of the disappointing 2014 campaign, launched a beautiful line drive single to score a quick-running Cain and launch the Royals ahead 3-2. Terrance Gore pinch-ran for Butler, Javier Lopez replaced Machi, and Gordon flied out. Rookie Hunter Strickland replaced Lopez, uncorked a wild pitch, and Hosmer and Gore moved up to second and third base. Perez, a man so lost at the plate for so long, put the barrel on the ball and roped a perfect double to the left-center gap. Royals ahead 5-2. Then, Infante mashed a home run to left field. Royals ahead 7-2.
When Perez rounded third, an odd exchange occurred. Strickland, obviously unhappy, yelled something. Perez, confused, fired some verbal jabs of his own when he got to home plate. Strickland's counter-response, very clearly lip read, yelled, "Get in the dugout boy!" Once Infante touched home plate, the Royals dugout emptied, and a scuffle loomed on the horizon. Thankfully, the umpires handled things very well and nothing occurred. Fox announcer Harold Reynolds posited that Strickland was yelling at himself and Perez assumed he was yelling at him; he thought that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. That's quite possible, as the whole thing was pretty bizarre, but it remains something to monitor as the collective media freaks out about the almost-drama. Ken Rosenthal's first question to Salvador Perez after the game was about the incident, not, you know, about the important win or whatever.
Anyway, the seventh through ninth innings went something like this:
For those of you unfamiliar with the Royals, that basically means that no runs were allowed and multiple opposing hitters looked silly. Herrera had a momentary lapse in control, walking a pair of batters with one out, but that was it for stress. Holland capped off the evening by striking out the side, allowing one single to toy with the Giants before he finished them off.
The series now stands tied at 1-1. Tomorrow is an off day, with the Royals traveling to San Fransisco. Friday through Sunday's games will be played in the San Fransisco, and the series will return to Kansas City assuming neither team sweeps the other in AT&T Park.
Much thanks to Minda Haas, who handled the game threads, and a quick shoutout to Royals Review staff Max Rieper, Jeff Zimmerman, and Josh Duggan and former Royals Review writer Craig Brown, who were at the game and clearly guided KC to victory.
We'll see you again on Friday. Be Royal, Kansas City.