Neither team figured to have a decided pitching advantage entering the World Series.
Giants ace Madison Bumgarner was the best of the starters. The Royals’ big three at the back end of the bullpen could be baseball’s best.
Not much was said about the middle-inning relievers, the bridge that gets the game from the starter to the closer or closers. Ideally, they remain in the dugout. When relievers are needed for more than an inning, it typically means the starter failed early.
That happened for the Giants on Saturday at AT&T Park, and it didn’t matter as the Giants rolled to an 11-4 victory that evened the series at 2-2.
Specifically, Yusmeiro Petit was the difference on Saturday.
A swingman who served as a starter and reliever this season, Petit has been terrific throughout the postseason and he came up huge upon entering the game in the fourth inning with the Royals leading 4-2.
“I’m ready for anything because you never know when they need you,” Petit said. “Just give me a chance.”
His final line: three scoreless innings, no runs. He even picked up a base hit. But his pitching performance changed the game.
“We’re fortunate to have a guy like this that when things aren’t going right, he can calm it down,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Although the Giants had nicked Jason Vargas for a run in the third, the game favored the Royals. With another run or two, they might have put enough distance in the lead to roll to a dominant advantage in the series.
The Giants desperately needed to hold the game here and chip away. Petit did his part.
He breezed through the fourth. When Eric Hosmer opened the fifth with a double, Petit got Mike Moustakas to pop to shortstop, struck out Omar Infante and got Salvador Perez to pop out.
Petit faced another possible threat in the sixth, when speedster Jarrod Dyson led off with a sharp single to right. But Petit coaxed pinch hitter Nori Aoki into a 3-6-3 double play.
Meanwhile, the Giants feasted on the Royals’ middle relievers. Vargas made it through the fourth with a 4-2 lead, but when Joe Panik led off the fifth with a double, Jason Frasor was summoned.
One out later, Hunter Pence ripped an RBI single, and the Giants were on their way.
The Royals middle relievers couldn’t hang on. Danny Duffy got out of the inning with the score 4-4, but Brandon Finnegan, who got two huge outs for the Royals in their game three victory Friday, didn’t duplicate the effort. He gave up three in the sixth, and Tim Collins got knocked around in the seventh.
As the deficit grew, the Royals wouldn’t access their bullpen stars, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. They got to rest their arms and watch their teammates get belted around, while Petit continued his long relief postseason mastery.
Petit finished the season in the rotation, replacing a slumping Tim Lincecum.
In the playoffs, Petit went to long relief and has been special. His threw six shutout innings in an 18-inning victory in game two of the NL Division Series against the Nationals, and he added three shutout innings against the Cardinals in game four of the NL Championship Series when Ryan Vogelsong got knocked out early.
That was the case Saturday. Vogelsong got roughed up early and yanked after 22/3 innings. Jean Machi got the final out, and Petit got the call, and the game turned.
The games against the Nationals and Cards were Petit’s only postseason appearances until Saturday. He was the winning pitcher in all three.
“The stage he’s on, it’s just been remarkable,” Bochy said.