The Giants and Royals played a beauty of a Fall Classic on a stunning autumn San Francisco evening. Friday's tense, taut game – in a ballpark packed to overflowing – was full of enough intrigue and matchups to delight any baseball fan.
After a classic bottom of the ninth, when Kansas City's untouchable closer Greg Holland faced the heart of the Giants order – Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence – and retired them on eight pitches, giving the Royals a 3-2 victory, Giants fans poured into the San Francisco streets frustrated and despondent.
The Giants are behind in the World Series, two games to one. It is the first time in these three postseason runs over the past five years that the Giants have ever trailed in the World Series. The first time the team had lost a World Series game at home since Game 3 in 2002. The first consecutive losses since the Giants were in St. Louis in 2012.
After the game, dozens of blue-clad Royals fans stood above the first-base dugout where Kansas City players were being brought out for television interviews. They chanted “Let's Go Royals,” and their delight echoed through the night sky, in a way that was reminiscent of Giants fans celebrating in Arlington in 2010 and Detroit in 2012.
The Giants had nothing to celebrate Friday. Which is new territory for many of the newly minted fans.
Is it time to panic? To pitch Madison Bumgarner on short rest? To change up the batting order? To second-guess Bruce Bochy? All of that was postgame banter in the bars along King and Second streets.
But in the depths of AT&T Park, inside the Giants clubhouse, there was no despondency. No panic, except for cool young second baseman Joe-with-a-K.
The Giants spoke in deliberately measured tones. The mood of the clubhouse was calm and professional.
“We're probably disappointed that we lost Game 3 but we'll be fine for Game 4,” Buster Posey said.
He spoke slowly, clasping his hands in front of him. He was the picture of calm, almost like a minister with his flock. Posey's body language might not have been conscious, but he sets the tone in the Giants clubhouse. Posey isn't worried. And neither are his teammates.
Across the clubhouse, Jeremy Affeldt spoke in the same unruffled cadence.
“We understand that we have a lot of work to do,” Affeldt said. “But we also know that we're capable of doing it.”
This is a team seasoned in October. Any giddiness was experienced and packed away in 2010. In 2012, the Giants were hardened by the fight of six elimination games to get to the World Series. This season, they won a do-or-die wild card game that allowed them to continue playing. This was their 13th postseason game of 2014. They aren't about to lose their composure.
And neither is Bochy. He quickly snuffed out the growing speculation that he might pull a Don Mattingly and pitch Bumgarner on short rest, rather than start Ryan Vogelsong in Game 4 as planned.
“We're going to keep things in order and go with Vogey,” Bochy said.
Not doing so would send a note of alarm into the clubhouse. It wouldn't be wise on a number of levels – forcing Bumgarner into a more challenging position, losing Vogelsong's confidence, sending a message to the rest of the team that a one-game deficit is too large to overcome.
“It was a good ballgame tonight,” Bochy said. “We're not going to change things because we lost.”
It was a good ballgame, and unlike the first two games – both lopsided in different ways - it showed how evenly matched these teams are.
The Royals showed their defensive strengths, their pitching prowess and Ned Yost's quirky ability to make his unconventional moves work.
Tim Hudson, pitching for the first time in a World Series at age 39, gave up an early run, but then settled down to retire 12 in a row. He got into trouble in the sixth inning, giving up another run and leaving with a runner at second. Javier Lopez replaced him and for the second consecutive game, the bullpen yielded the go-ahead run.
The mood at the sold-out ballpark was reserved through those early innings. You could blame that on the inability of the home team to produce runs. Or it could be that regular fans sold their World Series tickets for top dollar in order to finance next year's season tickets, or maybe their property taxes. Clearly there were a lot of new fans in the park, judging by the confusion some had in exiting the ballpark after the game.
For whatever reason, it took a Michael Morse pinch-hit double to light up the crowd. The Giants pulled to within one run in the bottom of the sixth, but – even with the crowd having found its voice - couldn't squeeze anything else out of the Royals masterful bullpen.
“It was a great baseball game,” Affeldt said. “Obviously it stinks that they turned out on top.
“But this is what I expected in the first two games. We're pretty evenly matched. Our ballclubs are very similar. I definitely think it's going to be a dogfight.”
The Giants have been in fights before. They're not worried.
Ann Killion is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com