That was one of the greatest baseball games of the postseason so far.
Let’s never, ever do it again.
The Royals, hanging on by their fingernails all night, escaped game three with a resilient 3-2 victory. Kansas City took a 2-1 advantage in the World Series, ultimately winning with the same blueprint that they’ve used all season long: get the lead and ride the bullpen to the end.
It didn’t take long for the Royals to get the party started. Alcides Escobar jumped on the first pitch from Tim Hudson and cranked it to deep right field, narrowly missing a home run. He settled for a double off the wall, and advanced to third on Alex Gordon’s groundout. Lorenzo Cain followed with a groundout of his own, this one plating the first run of the game.
The first two Royals to hit in the second inning reached, but Hudson locked down to escape the jam. This began a run of 11 straight Kansas City hitters he retired.
That score held all the way until the sixth inning, when with one out, Escobar reached with a single. Gordon stepped in the box and immediately crushed a double to deep center field, snapping an 0-for-11 start to the World Series.
After Lorenzo Cain was retired on a sharp groundout, birthday boy Eric Hosmer stepped to the plate. Lefty specialist Javier Lopez was brought into the game and immediately got ahead of Hosmer with an 0-2 count, but the Royals first baseman battled his way through the best at bat of his young career. On the 11th pitch of the plate appearance, Hosmer smashed a ringing single back up the middle, plating Gordon and widening the Royals’ lead to 3-0. For the normally impatient Hosmer, it was a huge moment that turned out to be the difference in the game.
Hudson's outing was nearly identical to the experience teammate Jake Peavy had in game two – escaping with minimal damage in the first two innings followed by flawless work through the fifth. Then, come third time through the order, trouble ensues, knocking both of them from the game in the sixth inning.
Jeremy Guthrie (1-0), meanwhile, was terrific for the second time in as many career playoff starts. He was one smidgen better than Hudson through five innings of work, yielding just two singles, one of which was erased when Hunter Pence was caught stealing by Perez. He did not strike out a batter, becoming the first starter in World Series history to earn a win while failing to strike out or walk any batters.
Ned Yost faced a controversial decision when the pitcher’s spot was due up to begin the sixth inning, and he chose to stick with Guthrie, who grounded out to start the inning. After the Royals extended the lead to 3-0, Guthrie took the hill but immediately allowed a leadoff single to Brandon Crawford. Pinch hitter Michael Morse entered the game, and following a long at-bat, doubled down the left field line to put the Giants on the scoreboard.
Guthrie was pulled immediately, and Ned Yost inserted Kelvin Herrera into the game, who promptly walked the first man he faced. The 7th-inning specialist induced three straight groundouts; one of which, however, plated a run to cut San Francisco’s deficit right back to one down.
Herrera returned for the seventh frame, giving up a leadoff walk before striking out Brandon Belt. Rookie Brandon Finnegan was thrust into the game, and as we’ve seen all along from the rookie, he showed no signs of being rattled by the big stage. He retired both batters he faced, including a huge strikeout of Crawford on a full count to end the inning. As I'm sure you know by now, Finnegan made history by becoming the first player to play in both the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same season.
Wade Davis blew through the eighth inning, striking out two of the three men he faced. While the cameras showed Greg Holland warming during the road half of the ninth, Joe Buck remarked, "(Holland) is their closer, but it's always interesting with him at the end of games." The two-time All Star closer proceeded to make the announcer look completely foolish as he mowed down the teeth of the Giants' order on just eight pitches in a flawless ninth frame. His seventh save of the postseason tied the MLB record for most in one playoff run. In all, the quartet of dynamite relievers combined to allow zero hits over the four innings they pitched.
Historically, when tied 1-1, nearly 70% of teams that win game three go on to win the World Series, making Friday night’s win all the more important for the Royals. Kansas City improved to a whopping 10-1 in postseason play, and now need just two victories in the next four games to secure the franchise’s second world title.
Beyond history, however, is just how impressive this team really is. Billy Butler was the hero in game two, and he didn't even play on Friday night. Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer were the only two regular Royals that had yet to record a hit in the series, and they were the ones who drove in the crucial runs with huge slump-busting knocks. This continues to prove that the Royals just may be the most well-rounded team in the sport, and it's truly a special kind of baseball to watch. It is truly a different hero every single night.
By the way, the Royals are now 5-0 in postseason road games, and if you add in regular season games, they're a whopping 52-34 away from Kauffman Stadium. If they can get two more in the next two days...immortality.
Jason Vargas won his first postseason start by allowing one run in 5.1 innings, and he will get the ball for the Royals tomorrow for game four. He will be opposed by Ryan Vogelsong, who has yielded five runs in just 8.2 innings pitched through two postseason starts thus far. Following game three, Jarrod Dyson was quoted by labeling Saturday's contest as "the statement game." The pitching matchup appears to be an advantage for Kansas City, and they can really step on the neck of San Francisco by going up 3-1 in the series. If the Royals can win tomorrow, they'll in all likelihood win the series. Vogelsong has never lost a playoff start, but if one thing can summarize what the Royals are doing right now, it's that they're doing thing after thing that had never previously happened before.
Kansas City can gain a commanding edge in the series with a victory tomorrow night. For now, just enjoy this – just like we all expected back in April: come October, there's absolutely nothing that Ned Yost can screw up.
...I think. So far. Stay tuned.
Side note - this is my final recap of the season, and I've really enjoyed the experience gained on Royals Review. You guys are all a fantastic audience, and I can't wait to pick it back up next year. Now go get two more!