Thursday, October 23, 2014

BASTA Sports: World Series Breakdown: The Royals Tie Things Up

By: Apurv Baichwal

Talk about reversing trends. After everything went so well yesterday for the Giants, they had the exact opposite results today. Instead of winning 7-1, like they did yesterday, they instead lost 7-2 today, mainly due to rookie Hunter Strickland not being able to pitch well. This loss also marked the Giants first World Series loss in seven games. The game also was the second World Series where the first two games were decided by five runs or more; the only other time this happened was when the Yankees beat the giants 8-1 in each of the first two Fall Classic games way back in 1937. The Giants offense that looked so prolific yesterday actually managed to get hits today as well, but they could not turn these hits into runs. Also, the Giants pitching was not nearly as stellar, from the starters to the relievers.

The game actually started off better than Tuesday, though. Gregor Blanco led off the game by lacing a 97 MPH fastball to right field for a home run, putting the Giants immediately up 1-0. The game looked like it would go pretty well for the Giants after this solo shot, as they went up early, something that has been key to their success all year. This leadoff home run marked the first one of its type in Giants’ World Seres history, and the 10th leadoff man in all of World Series history to knock a leadoff home run.

The Royals responded though very quickly, scoring a run in the first and second innings, bringing the score to 2-1 Royals. The Giants fought back to a tie game in the fourth, in what looked to be a pitchers duel at the time.

Pablo Sandoval led off the fourth inning with a double to center that just bounced off the Royals’ center fielder, Lorenzo Cain’s, glove and squirted to the left, allowing Sandoval to easily make it to second. Hunter Pence was unable to advance Sandoval as he grounded out, but Brandon Belt was still able to knock him in with a double to deep right field, off the wall.

Unfortunately, after the fourth inning, the Giants were unable to muster any runs, and their offense was quite quiet for the rest of the game. One interesting note for the Giants hitters is that every single starter got exactly one hit each; nobody had a multi-hit game, but everyone at least produced a small amount of offense. This should be considered a positive, as although the Giants were not able to string together their hits to score runs, they were still able to gain nine of them.

 On the other side of the game, Jake Peavy looked to be having a pretty good outing until the sixth inning. Through five innings he had only given up five hits and a walk and had only given up two runs. However, after allowing a single followed by a walk that included some very questionable command, Peavy was pulled from the game, and Jean Machi replaced him. Peavy’s final line was five plus innings with six hits, two walks, four earned runs (although two of them came after he left), and two strikeouts.

The next few pitchers didn’t do much better either, as a string of relievers all gave up hits. Machi was unable to record an out as he gave up an RBI single. Javier Lopez was the only bright spot of this bullpen as he completed his assignment and recorded on out. Hard-throwing rookie right-hander Hunter Strickland then earned the award for worst pitcher of the night as he allowed two huge hits, a two-run double and a two-run home run. Although he really gave up four runs, because of the rule about runs being assigned to whichever pitcher placed the runners on base, he was only tagged with two earned runs. Even so, he goes down in history as the second reliever in postseason history to allow five home runs in a single postseason. Strickland also managed to get into an argument with the Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez after giving up the home run due to some miscommunication about where his shouting was aimed. After Strickland was finally taken out of the game, the always trusty Jeremy Affeldt managed to record the final two outs to end the dreadful sixth inning. In total, in a single inning, five Giants pitchers combined to give up five runs on five hits and a walk, all while only recording three outs total. Basically, this inning sealed the game, as the Royals went up 7-1 and held onto this lead for the rest of the game.

Notably, however, Tim Lincecum made his first appearance of the postseason in the eighth inning. He looked great with stellar command of his pitches and pretty decent velocity. He pitched the seventh and was pitching the eighth until he left with two outs after landing awkwardly following a pitch to the plate. According to Bruce Bochy the Lincecum left with back tightness, and the injury should not be a big deal. So, he will hopefully be okay by Friday, as his 1.2 perfect innings with two strikeouts were enough to establish him as a reliable reliever for the Giants in this series even in future leverage situations, possibly instead of the extremely volatile and unreliable Hunter Strickland.

Overall, not much changed on the batting side of the game, as the Giants still got hits; they just were not able to convert them. Gregor Blanco has been heating up as well over this series, and he can hopefully continue his hot streak for the rest of the series to provide a spark at the top of the lineup. The main difference today was the Giants’ usually dominant bullpen that essentially gave up five runs all within an inning. They need to clean up their act and get back to being the dominant force that they usually are, so that Bochy can be confident that the back end of games will be safe in their hands.

This loss evens the series, and although morale may be low, the Giants are coming back to the Bay Area for three games that should be extremely exciting. They managed to split the games in Kansas City, which is exactly what they needed to do, and if they are able to take two of three at home, they should have a really good shot at taking the series. Friday’s game, at 5:07 PDT, will be a showdown between two veteran right handers: Tim Hudson for the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals. If Tim Hudson can keep control over his pitches, the offense can string their hits together to score runs, and the bullpen can forget today’s game and be a solid force to close out game, the Giants are more than capable of winning Game 3 of the World Series and putting themselves back up on top.

-Follow me on Twitter: @abaichwal

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