Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Royals Rout Giants, Force Game 7

The Royals staved off elimination with a blowout victory (TheStar)
It was a game the Kansas City Royals absolutely had to win, and it was over by the third inning.

Faced with a win-or-go-home scenario in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, just two days removed from managing a mere four hits against Madison Bumgarner, Kansas City broke out the bats. The Royals hung seven on the board in the second, equaling in one inning what they scored across 27 in San Francisco, and plated 10 in all. Kansas City's Game 6 run total exceeded its output in Games 1, 3, 4, and 5 combined.

The offensive outburst couldn't have come at a better time. There will be a Game 7 after all.

For that the Royals can thank Jake Peavy, who followed up his poor Game 2 start with an abysmal outing. He recorded only four outs before departing, leaving San Francisco's bullpen to mop up the remaining six and 2/3 innings. Peavy was about as bad as a pitcher can be, allowing five runs on six hits and giving the home team a commanding early lead. The poor Giants never even had a chance.

Then again, Peavy could have pitched brilliantly and still would have lost, as San Francisco scored nary a run. The Giants certainly had their chances, as 11 of them reached base, but the visitors came up empty in their six opportunities with runners in scoring position. They were thus shutout by Yordano Ventura, then Jason Frasor, and finally Tim Collins.

Speaking of Ventura, what a performance! 23 years old and fresh off his first full big league campaign, he rose to the occasion in the biggest game of his life. With five walks in seven innings he wasn't quite Bumgarner-esque, but nevertheless shut down San Francisco to eliminate whatever slim hopes there were of a comeback. Move over, James Shields; there's a new big game pitcher in town.

Of course, Ventura's effort will be in vain if Kansas City loses tonight. With a championship on the line, in the biggest baseball game the city has seen in three decades, the Royals will be counting on...Jeremy Guthrie, a thoroughly mediocre pitcher in 2014 with a 4.13 ERA and 1.30 WHIP across 202 and 2/3 innings. Guthrie earned the win in Game 3 but has failed to complete more than five innings in either of his postseason starts. It's a good thing Kansas City's bullpen is well-rested after Ventura's outing, because Ned Yost is going need all hands on deck for this one.

The Giants will counter with Tim Hudson, a grizzled veteran of 39 years, 16 of them spent in the big leagues. Still searching for a ring in his seventh postseason, Huddy has the chance to decide his team's destiny tonight. He was the tough-luck loser in Game 3 and will be looking to erase an entire career's worth of October frustration. Does his right arm, which has logged more than 3,000 innings in the big leagues, have enough bullets to keep Kansas City's spotty lineup at bay? The Giants' third title in five years depends on it. He has so much at stake in terms of pride and reputation, combined with such a distinguished track record, that I can't envision him pitching poorly. If he loses, it's going to be close, and it's going to hurt.

Adding to the intrigue is that both Yost and Bruce Bochy can call upon their aces if necessary. With two days rest, Shields and Bumgarner would typically use today as a throw day, but given the circumstances will be available to come out of the bullpen. That has to be a terrifying thought for the Royals, who've been utterly helpless against MadBum in this series. They better jump out to an early lead against Hudson, because if they have to deal with Bumgarner late in the game they're screwed.

I've said all along that the Giants were going to win this thing, and I'm not going back on my prediction now. I say they take Game 7 by a score of 4-2.

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