KANSAS CITY – How would the Royals respond after their first loss of the postseason? Pretty emphatically.
They played defense. The bullpen completely locked things down, with Kelvin Herrera throwing more gas than perhaps anyone in World Series history. That set the stage for the offense to get some key hits and even a longball that brought out some mutual hate between the teams.
A 2-2 game quickly became a blowout as the Royals used a five-run sixth against a quartet of San Francisco pitchers to rout the Giants, 7-2, Wednesday night. A crowd of 40,446 turned Kauffman Stadium into a rollicking party over the final three innings, when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“It’s crazy out there, man,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “Our fans were just rabid. … You look up there and I think there’s half the crowd that doesn’t sit down for the entire game. I don’t know how they keep their energy going but they sure do.”
The series is now tied at a win apiece as the teams scurried for their overnight flights to San Francisco. They will work out today in AT&T Park with Game Three set for Friday night. Former Buffalo Bisons prospect Jeremy Guthrie will start for Kansas City against San Francisco’s Tim Hudson in a battle of big-league veterans both making their first career start on the game’s biggest stage.
This one was pretty much as must-win as you could get for the Royals, since the next three games are slated for the Bay Area. After setting a major-league record by winning their first eight postseason games, the Royals laid an egg in Tuesday’s opener as San Francisco rolled to a 7-1 victory.
The game spoiled Kansas City’s return to the Fall Classic after a 29-year absence and raised the specter of an easy trip for the Giants to their third title in five years. The Giants led twice in this game too, including after the eighth pitch as Gregor Blanco stunned starter Yordano Ventura with a leadoff home run to right on a 98-mph fastball.
The game was tied at 2-2 and Royals manager Ned Yost had no choice but to go to his bullpen with runners at first and second and one out in the sixth against Ventura. Herrera answered the call with a vengeance.
Four of the five pitches Herrera threw to Brandon Belt were either 100 or 101 mph, and Belt hit the last one for a lazy fly to left. Michael Morse grounded into a force at second to end the inning, after also seeing four pitches of either 100 or 101.
The display got the crowd buzzing even more and the Kansas City offense rewarded the fans’ faith.
Lorenzo Cain led off with a single and Eric Hosmer walked, knocking out San Francisco starter Jake Peavy. Jean Machi gave up Billy Butler’s RBI single to left that gave Kansas City a 3-2 lead and already started to bring out thoughts the Giants were in trouble against the Royals’ bullpen.
It would only get worse. After Javier Lopez retired Alex Gordon on a fly ball to left, Hunter Strickland had an utter meltdown on the mound.
Strickland gave up a scorching two-run double to left-center to catcher Salvador Perez that sent the decibel count soaring and put the Royals in control, 5-2. It got even louder two pitches later when Omar Infante clubbed a Strickland pitch into the Royals bullpen in left to put Kansas City up by five. It was Infante’s first home run in 145 career postseason at-bats.
As Infante crossed the plate, Strickland and Perez were exchanging words. Both players were restrained by umpires and teammates as some players came out of the dugouts and three Royals even ran in from the left-field bullpen. There were no punches thrown and no ejections.
“He starts looking at me at second base. I wanted to forget about that because we were winning,” Perez said of Strickland. “After Omar hit the ball and I got close to home plate, he starts looking at me so I asked him, ‘Hey what are you looking at?’ He just told me to get out of here, whatever.
“You don’t have to treat me like that. Look at Omar. Omar hit a ball out. I hit a double. I don’t know what happened with that guy. We don’t want a fight on the field. I’m not that kind of player.”
“I think it was just frustration on his part,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Strickland. “He’s an intense kid and it probably got away from him a little bit.”
Strickland was contrite.
“He has pride, I have pride,” he said. “You can’t take it back.”
The blowup continued a miserable postseason for Strickland, who has faced 23 batters and given up five home runs. The five-run outburst was the biggest in a Series game since the Giants used a seven-run eighth to pulverize Texas, 9-1, in Game Two in 2010 at AT&T Park.