The Royals’ recent success has been based on pitching, defense and just enough offense. In game one of the World Series, Royals fans saw what happens when that formula breaks down.
In the last two games of the American League Championship Series, the Royals won because the pitching and defense were spectacular. The Baltimore Orioles scored a total of two runs; the Royals scored a total of four. If the Royals do not pitch well in the World Series — and they gave up 10 hits and seven runs on Tuesday night — the Royals’ offense will struggle to score enough runs to win.
The Royals lose game one to the San Francisco Giants 7-1.
First inning: With Gregor Blanco on third base and Buster Posey on first, San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval doubled into the right-field corner. The Giants challenged Omar Infante’s arm by trying to score Posey from first base — Omar has had difficulty with his throwing shoulder — but Infante made a solid relay throw, and Posey was out at home plate.
Then Kansas City starter James Shields threw a 3-2 fastball to Hunter Pence, and it was middle-middle, which is baseball talk for a pitch that is in the middle of the strike zone both vertically and horizontally. Pence hit it over the wall in right-center field, and the Giants were up 3-0.
Nobody knew it at the time, but Giants starter Madison Bumgarner had all the runs he needed.
Bottom of the first: Lorenzo Cain got hit by a back-foot slider. A left-handed pitcher throws it at a right-handed hitter’s back foot, and Bumgarner was right on target. That was where he hit Cain.
Unfortunately for the Royals, the left-handed Bumgarner is quick to home plate — about 1.1 to 1.25 seconds — too quick for most base stealers. Cain stayed put, and Eric Hosmer drove a ball to right-center field. Blanco chased it down and saved a run.
Second inning: Billy Butler led off the bottom of the second with a single, but Billy generally is a 90-feet-at-a-time base runner. Keeping the top of the order off the bases might be a key to the Series for both teams. If the fast guys don’t make it on base, the middle-of-the-order guys will play station-to-station baseball and the offense will bog down.
Butler was still on first when Salvador Perez hit an inning-ending double-play ball back to the mound.
Bottom of the third: Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford made an error on Omar Infante’s ground ball to start the inning, then Mike Moustakas doubled. With runners on second and third and only needing to get a ball in play to score a run, Alcides Escobar chased a pitch up out of the zone to strike out. Nori Aoki also swung at a pitch out of the zone for the second strikeout of the inning.
Cain walked to load the bases, then Hosmer swung at the first pitch he saw, a slider that was out over the plate. Hosmer pulled the pitch and hit a weak ground ball to second base. The Royals missed their best chance to get back in the game.
If the Royals chase pitcher’s pitches with runners in scoring position, the Giants pitchers will not throw them strikes, and this will be a short Series.
Fourth inning: Pence hit a change-up, and the low velocity of the pitch allowed him to pull the ball between Moustakas and the third-base foul line. Brandon Belt needed to move Pence over to third base, but a wild pitch by Shields did the job for him. Pence was on third base with two chances to score without benefit of a hit, but the Giants got one anyway after Belt walked and Michael Morse singled.
The score was 4-0, and James Shields was done. Danny Duffy replaced him on the mound, but after a sacrifice bunt, Duffy had trouble throwing strikes. Danny walked two batters, and another run scored.
Sixth inning: After six full innings, the Royals had put just four runners on base, two with hits, one on a base on balls and one who was hit by a pitch. Before the game, Rusty Kuntz, the Royals’ base-running coach, watched four hours of video on Bumgarner. Kuntz said he never saw anyone manage to steal first base on Bumgarner. If the Royals can’t reach first base, nobody is stealing second.
Seventh inning: Aoki took a bad route on a Joe Panik line drive and turned a single into a triple. A run scored, and the Giants led 6-0.
If Aoki does not hit in the first couple of games in the Series, don’t be surprised if Jarrod Dyson gets a start in his place. The Royals’ best outfield is Alex Gordon in left, Jarrod Dyson in center and Lorenzo Cain in right. If the Royals aren’t getting offense from Nori, they might look for defense from Jarrod.
Panik being on third forced the Royals to bring in their infield for a play at the plate. Pablo Sandoval slapped a single past shortstop Alcides Escobar. It would have been an easy out if Esky were playing back. The Giants were up 7-0.
Bottom of the seventh: Perez, who has been chasing sliders away for a while now, got four fastballs in and hit the fourth one 377 feet. The bullpen gates are about 375 feet away, so that was a home run. Bumgarner threw Perez nothing but breaking stuff in the fourth inning and struck him out. Throwing Perez a hittable fastball seemed like a mistake.
The score was 7-1, and that’s the way it ended.
Games three and four
Manager Ned Yost said his game three starter would be Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas would start game four. That would put Shields in line to pitch game five, Ventura would have game six and game seven, if necessary, would be Jeremy Guthrie’s. But don’t take any of that to the bank. Things could change a lot if the Series goes seven games.