KANSAS CITY – One big inning was all it took for the Kansas City Royals to send the World Series to its ultimate showdown tonight.
Exploding for seven runs in the second and getting seven shutout innings on the mound from rookie starter Yordano Ventura, the Royals breezed past the San Francisco Giants, 10-0, Tuesday to even the series at three wins apiece.
And suddenly, after plenty of talk about the Giants trying to win their third title in five years and becoming the game’s biggest dynasty since the Yankees, momentum and history are squarely in the Royals’ favor.
The Royals went this route, of course, when they last made the World Series and won their only title in 1985. They came home in a 3-2 hole against the St. Louis Cardinals and took Game Six, 2-1, thanks mostly to the infamous Don Denkinger umpiring gaffe. Then they rolled in Game Seven, 11-0, in much the same fashion as Tuesday’s game.
And there are these nuggets in the Royals’ favor as well: The last nine Game Sevens in the Fall Classic have been won by the home team. The last visiting team to win one was the Pittsburgh Pirates, with a 4-1 victory in 1979 at Baltimore. Home teams, in fact, are 23-3 in Games Six and Seven combined since 1982.
“We’re proud to be a part of this, and we’re proud to show everyone how far this organization has come,” said Royals designated hitter Billy Butler. “From the first years when I came up when we were really struggling, to trying to get back where they were in the ’80s. And I think we’ve accomplished that.”
“There’s all kinds of things you can rattle off, but there’s going to be a game tomorrow and we’ll be here,” said Giants outfielder Hunter Pence. “Game Six is over for the rest of eternity. It will never come back.”
In Game Seven tonight, Kansas City is going with former Buffalo Bisons pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, the 35-year-old who won his first World Series start in Game Three. He will be opposed at the start by fellow vet Tim Hudson in a rematch of Friday’s game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
But it’s plainly obvious the Giants will be using ace Madison Bumgarner for at least an inning of relief tonight, if not more. Manager Bruce Bochy, in fact, said Bumgarner could have been available to pitch in Game Six – just two days after his brilliant shutout in Game Five.
“You love to be here in front of your own fans, have their energy to buoy us up and put us over the top hopefully,” said Guthrie, who went 26-26 in Buffalo from 2003 to 2006. “I think many of the fans have commented to me that they remember 1985 and the same opportunity to come back and have to win two games, so that’s what we’re faced with. I think it gives us the opportunity to do something really special here.”
The Royals pummeled San Francisco starter Jake Peavy for five hits over six at-bats in the second, and the Giants made a quick and fruitless turn to their bullpen.
Ventura, pitching with the initials of late St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras on his cap, wriggled in and out of some trouble due to five walks but never let the Giants get home.
The crowd of 40,372 spent the entire second inning on its feet roaring and then was able to move into relaxation and celebration modes the rest of the night.
After not scoring for 16 innings, the big hits in the Royals’ scoring were Nori Aoki’s RBI single after an eight-pitch battle that drove Peavy from the game, Lorenzo Cain’s two-run single and Eric Hosmer’s chopper over a drawn-in infield that turned into a two-run double to center.
“Baseball is a crazy game,” Hosmer said. “You always seem to see something you never really see.
“I was trying to be aggressive with the infield in and I knew I had a shot at second. That’s the way we play.”
The seven runs were a Kansas City record for an inning in the postseason. And remember, this is a franchise that played October baseball seven times from 1976 to 1985. Manager Ned Yost pretty much guaranteed a win Monday, and his players delivered.
“I’ve never been so convicted about a game in my life,” Yost said.
“I never felt so strongly about us winning a game than I did today about this game. I don’t know why. It’s just the confidence I have in these guys. You see the confidence they have in themselves.”
Peavy extended his MLB record for consecutive postseason starts lasting fewer than six innings to nine games. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings, was charged with five runs and saw his career postseason ERA bloat to 7.98. And although the outcome was a disappointment to the Giants, they were resolute it was just one opportunity lost and they still have one left.
“This is what you work for starting in spring training,” Bochy said. “If you told me we were going to be playing in the seventh game in the World Series, I think we’d all be doing cartwheels.”