It’s not over for the Giants, not by a long shot. Severe challenges lie ahead in Kansas City.
Buster Posey, for instance, will have to make the adjustment from catching the coolest pitcher in the world, Madison Cucumber, who doesn’t sweat or blink for nine innings, to catching Jake Peavy, who rages on the mound like McBeth’s loonier brother.
No problem, said Posey.
“I’ve got two days to adjust.”
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The Giants also must adjust to the sudden giddy feeling of being big World Series favorites, now that they have taken a 3-2 lead over the Royals and have scored the last 15 runs of this Series.
The Royals came into the World Series on that kind of roll, having won all eight of their playoff games. The Giants have mostly done a lot of scuffling this season. King of the Hill has not been their game.
But they seem to enjoy it, or at least feel comfortable in that spot. Maybe that’s because just about every Giant who has trotted onto the field the first five games has performed superbly. No pressure if everyone is coming through.
Posey, for instance, has caught every inning of the playoffs, 15 games, and looks fresh and lively. I asked him if he is feeling tired at all.
“Feel great, never better!” Posey said, with conviction, as if he was afraid I was about to tell Bruce Bochy wants him to take Game 6 off.
Posey has 17 hits in those 15 games (.258), all of them singles. The Giants rely on Posey as a power source, but they’re making do with his smaller stuff. In fact, in winning Games 4 and 5, the Giants have reverted to their playoff mode of dink-‘n’-dunk.
Until defensive fill-in Juan Perez doubled off the centerfield wall in the eighth Sunday, the Giants’ nine hits were all singles, including Brandon Belt’s bunt in the second inning, which moved Hunter Pence to second and set up the game’s first run.
Instead of bludgeoning the ball, the Giants are getting creative, like artistes. Belt said that was the first time in the big leagues he has even tried to bunt for a hit, the first time since college. It was his idea.
“They gave me a bit of open field on the left side,” Belt said.
There’s a difference between the two teams right here. The Giants are shifting on Royals lefty power man Mike Moustakas, with secondbaseman Joe Panik playing in short right field and gobbling up shouda-been base hits. Moustakas, 3-for-16, has yet to accept the freebie bunt single the Giants are conceding him.
The Giants, meanwhile, seem happy to peck away like annoying birds on your fruit tree. Brandon Crawford drove home three runs with two singles and a ground out. Scratch-and-sniff is working for the Giants.
Especially when they’ve got Madison Bumgarner dealing. The secret of Bumgarner, it turns out, is that it takes him a while to warm up. Like six months. He pitched fine during the regular season, but he has achieved a higher level in the postseason.
Maybe Bumgarner only gets going when it’s harvest time, when he hitches up the plow to Ol’ Posey, clears his sinuses and commences to reapin’ the crops (or whatever farmers do).
In the dugout on TV shots, Bumgarner looks like a wax museum statue, unblinking, unmoving. His teammates don’t seem to talk to him, maybe because what do you say to a guy who is dealing like a crooked riverboat gambler? “Keep doing that”?
“I haven’t talked to him very much between innings ever,” Posey said with a shrug.
I asked Belt if he noticed Bumgarner crumbling under the pressure.
“Yeah,” said Belt. “When he was up to the plate.”
Bumgarner, sometimes the best power hitter in the lineup, grounded out, whiffed and popped up, stranding three runners in scoring position.
You have to look hard to find Giants’ faults. Belt admitted he screwed up in the fourth when he fielded a grounder by Salvadore Perez and, with Bumgarner late to cover, had to make a nimble but risky feet-first slide into the bag to get Perez.
Belt confessed he was playing unusually far off first and forgot to alert Bumgarner, who assumed Belt would break to first and let secondbaseman Joe Panik handle the grounder.
Come on, people, do we have to go back to Spring Training drills in Monday’s off-day workout?
The World Series is playing out extremely well for the Giants. Remember how the plow-horse-slow Giants were in danger of being run ragged by the racehorse Royals? Each team has one stolen base and one caught-stealing.
The Giants seem locked in, but you never know. Someone (not me) asked Posey if it might be a problem for this team to keep its focus as the series moves to Kansas City. Come on, this is Buster Ballgame. Might as well ask him if it will be a problem remembering which end of the bat to grip.
“I don’t think keeping focused will be an issue,” Posey said, politely but drolly.