You critical spirits were all ready for a big let down this weekend. Good crowds are expected, the Giants come in with a good record, and the Royals have seemingly folded under this kind of scrutiny all season. Well don't you feel silly now.
The Royals got things going right away for the crowd of 28,307 fans with a two-run first inning home run by lightning rod Billy Butler. It was Billy's seventh blast of the year, and it put the Royals up 2-0. Jason Vargas labored each inning, but was a Houdini at getting out of jams, stranding four runners over the first two frames. The Giants finally got on the board in the third when former Royal Joaquin Arias doubled home a run, followed by a Matt Duffy RBI single. The damage could have been worse, had Arias not been caught at home trying to score on a throw from Nori Aoki. It was Aoki's second assist of the inning, as he had previously thrown to third to get Hunter Pence, who came off the bag at third on his slide. Cue Hunter Pence signs.
Vargas would leave after five innings, escaping with just two runs allowed on nine hits, but no walks. Then the bullpen did work. Buster Olney points out its a well-rested pen, and Ned actually used his good reliever - Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland, to shut down San Francisco over the last four frames.
The Royals took the lead in the sixth after an Omar Infante single. Salvador Perez hit a potential double play ball, or at least a force out at second, but Michael Morse's throw pulled second baseman Matt Duffy off the bag at second, and Duffy's errant throw allowed Infante to move to third. Billy Butler drove home another run on a single to give the Royals a 3-2 lead. Alex Gordon lined a shot down the left-field line to score Perez, and it probably should have scored another run, but Billy Butler was inexplicably caught at third on what should have been a routine double for Gordon. What Billy giveth, Billy taketh away.
The game had it all, a Billy Butler home run, a magic act by Jason Vargas, clutch hitting, Nori Aoki antics, Hunter Pence signs, and Jarrod Dyson wearing a Spiderman outfit. The Royals keep their lead in the Wild Card race as the Yankees won, but the Blue Jays lost (to division rival Detroit), so the Royals extend their lead to 1.5 over Toronto, with a one game lead on the Mariners who are underway against the White Sox tonight.
Isn't this weekend fun already?