After a dud of an opener, the hitting heroes were plenty in the second game of the World Series. But the roll call did not include two of the most productive players of the earlier rounds.
Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer entered game three a combined zero for 13.
After each went down in his first two plate appearances Friday at AT&T Park, the emptiness jumped to 17. That’s where it ended, and that’s how the Royals put together the rally that carried them to a 3-2 victory over the Giants and a 2-1 lead in the World Series.
The two-run sixth inning got going with Alcides Escobar’s one-out single, ending a streak of 11 straight retired by Giants starter Tim Hudson.
Gordon, batting second for the first time this season because of a lineup jostle by manager Ned Yost, stroked a 1-0 pitch to straight away. Center fielder Gregor Blanco threw his glove up, hoping Escobar would hesitate, but he wasn’t biting.
Escobar scored easily on Gordon’s double, his first hit in 17 plate appearances dating to the first game of the American League Championship Series against the Orioles. That night, Gordon cleared the bases with a broken-bat double and homered in the 10th inning.
“It felt good,” Gordon said. “I knew if I hit it in the gap, with Esky’s speed he had a good chance to score.”
The blast was Gordon’s 10th RBI of the playoffs, matching a team record for a single postseason. Willie Mays Aikens also had 10 in 1980, when he blasted four home runs.
Gordon learned on Thursday from Yost that he’d be hitting second in the order.
“He told me not to change anything, stick with my approach and what I’ve been doing, and it was kind of nice to hear from him,” Yost said.
Lorenzo Cain grounded out to third, bringing up Hosmer, who had grounded out to third and struck out in his first two at-bats.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled Hudson for Javier Lopez, and the reliever quickly had Hosmer down 0-2.
Then the battle commenced.
Hosmer fouled off the next two pitches, took a pitch outside, and fouled off another. Took another pitch out of the zone and fouled off two more before finally running the count full.
On the 11th pitch, he lashed a base up the middle, scoring Gordon and padding the Royals’ lead to 3-0.
“I didn’t even know it was 11,” Hosmer said. “I got down 0-2 awful quick, and he’s a guy who throws from a different arm angle that’s tough against lefties. You just shorten up. I had to find any way to get Gordon in right there.”
Hosmer had hit .400 in the AL Division and Championship series. Now, he has a World Series hit and RBI, and it came at the perfect moment.
“That was a huge hit,” Yost said. “It was a testament to his tenacity. He was not going to give in. And he was going to give his club the best at-bat he possible could. He kept fighting off pitches. He didn’t get long. He didn’t get strong. He just stayed short up the middle.”
And it happened on Hosmer’s 25th birthday. Asked where it ranks as a birthday present, Hosmer didn’t hesitate.
“No. 1,” he said. “I could have struck out six times in five at-bats. As long as we won.”