If the idea was to find deep meaning in the Royals’ regular-season sweep of the San Francisco Giants in August, as the teams prepare to meet in the World Series, Kauffman Stadium on Friday wasn’t the place to be.
“Doesn’t mean anything,” outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
The party line held that those games have no bearing on what’s about to happen, starting with Tuesday’s first game in Kansas City (7:07 p.m. on Fox).
“This is two teams going to battle for everything,” Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “That’s a great team we’re playing.”
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Talk to the hand, Royals manager Ned Yost might as well have said, when asked for his recollection of the series on Aug. 8-10 at Kauffman Stadium.
“It doesn’t matter,” Yost said. “This is whole different ballgame now. This is the World Series. This isn’t a three-game series in August. It doesn’t matter what the recollections were. It’s going to be a totally different atmosphere, a total different game.”
But the series happened, and the Royals played great, knocking home runs each day and stealing seven bases in the finale. The games came in the midst of the team’s hottest stretch, when they won 24 of 30 in late July and August.
The Giants meanwhile were struggling. The games in Kansas City were part of a 5-13 stretch that dropped them to six games over .500.
Both teams reached the playoffs without winning their division, making this the first all-wild-card series since 2002, and this year’s World Series winner will become the first in the game’s history to win 12 games in a postseason because of the one-game wild-card format that started in 2012.
The teams have many similarities, and one area that carried both teams through the postseason was an outstanding bullpen. Giants relievers went 35 1/3 innings with a 1.78 ERA, the Royals’ posted a 1.80 ERA in 35 innings. The Giants played an 18-inning game against the Nationals, but the Royals played in, and won, four games that went extra innings.
The teams made their playoff home runs count, with the Giants’ Brandon Belt hitting one to beat the Nationals in the 18th. They went four games against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series without a homer, then hit three in the game-five clincher, including Travis Ishikawa’s three-run walk-off.
The Royals hit four of their six playoff home runs in extra innings.
A big difference between the clubs is postseason experience. The Giants are appearing in their third World Series in five years, and they rolled to championships in 2010 and 2012.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who have been through this,” pitcher Madison Bumgarner said after the Giants finished off the Cardinals on Thursday night. “They know what to expect, and they are not afraid of the moment by no means.”
But the Royals, in the postseason for the first time since winning the 1985 championship, haven’t been overwhelmed by the moment. Just the opposite.
They’ve been perfect in the playoffs, the first team to start a postseason by winning eight straight. Since the amazing AL Wild Card Game victory over the A’s, the Royals have only trailed in the postseason for two full innings.
They’ll likely face Bumgarner in game one. He’s made four postseason starts and owns a 1.42 ERA. The Royals figure to counter with James Shields, although Yost hasn’t announced his starter.
The aces missed each other at Kauffman in August, when Bumgarner was the losing pitcher in the series opener and Shields won the second game by throwing a shutout. The sweep added to the Royals’ mastery of the National League this season: They were 15-5 against NL teams.
The Royals were 8-2 on the road in interleague play, and games three through five in San Francisco will be played under National League rules — no designated hitter.
“You have to manage two styles in one series,” Yost said. “There are a lot more things involved, the double-switch comes into play, pinch hitting comes into play, a lot more strategy to the National League game.”
Where the Royals have succeed this year, especially against the Giants. Not that it matters now, they say.