Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Other Team Shows Up

Omar Infante's HR twisted dagger into Hunter Strickland
A funny thing happened last night on the way to the San Francisco Giants inevitable World Series championship. The other team showed up.

The Kansas City Royals erupted for five runs in the 6th inning, then turned the game over to their shutdown back-end bullpen. The result was a 7-2 victory and a 1-1 tie in the 2014 World Series.

That 6th inning eruption likely came as a surprise to many pundits and scribes who, particularly after San Fran's 7-1 romp in the opener, had already begun the Giants coronation as 2014 champions.

A gentle reminder to them: it's a best-of-seven series, not a one game elimination.

The Giants still may win this thing. They accomplished the bottom line basic of any team that opens such a series with a pair of games on the road, they won at least one. They go home now for three straight in front of their raucous fans. They hold home field advantage in what has become a best-of-five.

But they did not drive a stake into the bodies of the Kansas City team. Instead, it was the hosts who showed the visitors that they'll never be Royals (apologies, Lorde.) Kansas City won for the 10th time in 11 postseason games this Fall. Not only did they stay alive, they made a statement.

In a tight 2-2 game in the 6th inning, longtime Royals slugger Billy "Country Breakfast" Butler, whose 1st inning single had tied it early and kept the Giants from mentally burying KC, delivered again. His 2nd rbi single put the Royals on top 3-2 and opened the flood gates.

Butler served up some Country Breakfast in the 6th to put KC on top

Many of those same scribes and pundits who had already buried the Royals have also taken frequent potshots at manager Ned Yost. But it was Yost, again, who pushed the right buttons with his team. He pinch-ran for Butler, and when Salvador Perez ripped a 2-run double to the power alley just to the left of centerfield that runner, Terrance Gore, came around to score, and the Royals had a 5-2 lead.

The damage was done by the Royals against Giants' reliever Hunter Strickland, who has been consistently crushed during this postseason. But Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, the World Series' "genius" manager in the eyes of the scribes and pundits, continued to run him out there in key moments.

Strickland wasn't done making Bochy, or himself, look bad. The next batter, contact hitter Omar Infante, drove a no-doubt-about-it homerun over the left field fence. It was 7-2, and Strickland lost his mind, as he has previously. His screaming tirade directed towards who-knows-who appeared aimed towards Perez, and the two jawed.

In the end, Hunter Strickland devolved from simply a young flame-thrower who got beat in a couple key moments to a young man acting the fool on the biggest stage that baseball has to offer. For Bochy, it has to go down as a "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" moment.

The overmatched (sic) Yost then turned to that shutdown back-end bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and closer Greg Holland. Herrera dominated in the 6th to get starter Yordano Ventura out of a jam, then struggled a bit when called in to also do the 7th after the long wait while KC scored their runs. But he kicked it up a gear, got out of his own jam, and the Giants were effectively done.

Kelvin Herrera did a nice job powering KC out of two jams

Over the final two innings, Davis and Holland did what Davis and Holland do: they allowed next-to-nothing, and they got touched almost as infrequently. The two allowed just one combined hit, and struck out 5 of the 6 batters they faced.

The bottom line of this affair was that the other team in this series, the Kansas City Royals, finally showed up. Maybe it was a game late, but they answered the Giants romp in the opener with one of their own, looking every bit as dominant on this night as the GMen had on Tuesday.

If there is one lesson that those many scribes and pundits learned as a result, it is that you don't bury a good team because of one bad game. The Kansas City Royals are a very good team.

In my Power Ranking at the end of the regular season, the Royals finished as the top-ranked team in all of baseball. That team showed up last night, and now we have a series. It probably should have been expected. It was by me.


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