Wednesday, October 22, 2014

B.A.S.T.A World Series Game 1 Breakdown: Giants Feast on Royals Pitching

By: Apurv Baichwal

Today’s game marked the beginning of a World Series that should be a close one, filled with long, gruesome, nail-biters. This series is supposed to be a battle between the two best teams in baseball, and for this reason the games should be tight to the very end. This year, the World Series should be even more legendary, because both of the teams came into the postseason from the Wild Card position; the only other time that this has ever happened was in 1989 during the Bay Bridge Series when the Giants lost to the A’s. These teams had to fight from the lowest spots in the postseason, playing without any home field advantage, to make the World Series. So, one would expect these feats to be a testament to both the Royals’ and the Giants’ strength. Therefore, this series—on paper—should be close; every game should go down to the wire.

However, today’s game looked like a regular season game. The Royals could not pitch for their lives, as they gave up seven runs through the game. Even more surprisingly, the Royals’ starting pitcher and their supposed ace, James Shields, was atrocious today, as he was chased after three innings. As we predicted, “Big Game” James Shields really isn’t all that good in the postseason. In fact, he is actually pretty bad, as coming into the World Series he had a 5.63 ERA this postseason, and after this game, it rose even higher. Today he went 3+ innings, allowing a whopping five earned runs and seven hits, along with a walk. Another part of our prediction from yesterday was that Ned Yost is a pretty pathetic excuse for a baseball manager. Ned Yost definitely lived up to that prediction today, as he was obstinate in not pulling out his starting pitcher, even after he allowed three runs in the first. He only finally pulled his pitcher out in the fourth, after he allowed a run and left runners on first and second.

From the Giants’ perspective, the first, fourth, and seventh innings were their best. In the first, the top of the lineup produced, and the whole lineup clicked together to produce three beautiful runs. Gregor Blanco, who struggled earlier in the postseason, opened up the game with a single to shallow right centerfield. Rookie second baseman Joe Panik then advanced him to second with a deep flyout to left centerfield. Blanco exhibited some stellar base running here, realizing that the ball was going to be caught, then deciding to tag up at first, then sprinting over to second before the throw could get there. Buster Posey, showing off his great bat control, then slapped a single to left advancing Blanco to third. With runners at the corner, power-hitting third baseman Pablo Sandoval hit a ball hard down the right field line, a shot that bounced off the right field wall. Blanco easily scored on this one-out double, but Posey was easily called out at home after trying to stretch his way home. Third base coach Tim Flannery made a rare mistake here, as he is usually really good at deciding whether runners should go home, but after the ball took a funny bounce off the wall, Flannery expected the Royals’ left fielder to have a harder time tracking it down. Fortunately, even though Posey caused the second out, usually a no-no when you could instead be at third with one out, Hunter Pence was ready to hit when he came to bat. Hunter Pence absolutely destroyed a fastball to center, as somehow Shields thought it would be a good idea to throw fastballs to a fastball hitter. Pence barely missed one fastball, fouling it straight back, then Shields immediately threw him another one right down the middle that he smashed 421 feet directly into centerfield for a two-run home run.

In case their 3-0 lead wasn’t enough, the Giants heart of the lineup tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning. Hunter Pence led off with a low, hard line drive right near the left field line that barely slid under the Royals’ third baseman’s glove for a double. During first baseman Brandon Belt’s at bat, Hunter Pence advanced to third on a wild changeup that took a bad bounce in the dirt. Belt then walked after five pitches, putting runners on the corner and highlighting the fact that James Shields had no control all game, missing his targets by multiple feet many times and leaving pitches out over the middle of the plate. Michael Morse then came to the plate and singled to right, scoring Pence and advancing Belt to second. Manager Ned Yost, finally pulled out his starter here, but the Giants were not fazed as they added another run in the inning.

Bruce Bochy showed some real managerial skill, contrarily to the Royals’ manager, pinch hitting the speedy Juan Perez for NLCS hero Travis Ishikawa, who won the final game of the series. Although fans may not have appreciated the decision, it was effective, as Perez laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt down the third base line, advancing Belt to third and Morse to second. Brandon Crawford then walked, after a hard-fought at bat, bringing the top of the lineup, and Gregor Blanco to the plate. Now, the Giants’ scored their fifth run with a walk, a laughable play that pretty much summed up the game: the Giants dominated the Royals. In summary, Blanco walked, advancing each runner one base and scoring Brandon Belt, and giving himself a quite ironic RBI.

The Giants still did not stop; however, as they added a final two runs in the seventh. Here, Gregor Blanco led off the inning with another walk, followed by a huge triple to deep right field by Joe Panik. This ball bounced over the Royals’ sliding right fielder and rolled to the wall. By the time the center fielder picked the ball up and relayed it in, Panik had a standup triple and Blanco had scored without difficulty. Pablo Sandoval then scored Panik with a single to short left, giving the Giants seven runs, and more than enough to win the game.

With their huge first inning, the Giants went up 3-0 before the Royals could even come to bat. Although it was only the first inning, the game looked to be almost done, as the Royals and their fans were extremely dejected, and morale was really low. The fact that Bumgarner was stellar through seven innings, overpowering the Royals lineup, definitely did not help this low morale. Bumgarner, who has been the Giants’ ace in the rotation, and the star of their postseason threw his fifth seven plus inning start of this postseason. For comparison, no other pitcher has thrown more than two seven plus inning starts. The point is: Bumgarner has been really, really good this postseason, and he continued his great pitching today.

Bumgarner went seven strong innings, and he shutout the Royals through the first six. He only allowed three hits and one walk, but he gave up one earned run on a seventh inning home run. He threw 106 pitches today, and he threw 71 of them, or 69% of his total pitches, for strikes, recording five strikeouts through his win. This win also marked his third World Series win, in his third World Series start, as he has always been stellar in the Fall Classic. This Giants’ win also caused the Royals to suffer their first loss of the postseason, as they had won eight games in a row, and it truly brought them back to Earth and grounded them, showing that the Giants have come to play and win.  The always trusty Javier Lopez then pitched a scoreless eighth, only allowing one hit, and then the hard-throwing Hunter Strickland managed to close out the game without a blemish, not allowing a baserunner as he recorded two strikeouts.

Back to our prediction of this World Series from yesterday, much of it came true this game.

1. Ned Yost really proved himself to be an awful manager by not pulling his starting pitcher out early enough when the Royals still may have had a chance to win.

2. “Big Game” did not live up to his billing as he allowed five earned runs over three plus innings.

3. The Royals did regress, as was inevitable, as they had almost no offensive production combined with terrible pitching, forcing their first loss of the postseason.

4. The Giants held runners as the Royals did not manage a single stolen base all game. Bumgarner looked sharp holding runners on, with looks and quick throws, and his being a lefty gave him a definite advantage as he was facing first base before every pitch.

5. The San Francisco Giants possessed their “it” factor today, as balls fell in marvelous ways for them, including great bounces and some great plays on their end. The Giants always seem to have the baseball gods on their side in the postseason, as they looked like they were destined to win the game.

Overall, the Giants completely annihilated the Royals with a 7-1 win, and they put themselves ahead in the World Series, with a 1-0 lead. Even if they lose tomorrow, they will have still achieved their goal, as all they needed to do was split the first two games in Kansas. Tomorrow’s game will probably be much harder than today, with control specialist Jake Peavy squaring off against the Royals fire-throwing, 23 year old Yordano Ventura at 5:07 PDT. Hopefully the Giants can continue the hitting prowess they displayed today, as with today’s offensive production they could sweep the Series. Unfortunately, the Giants probably will not get this much production tomorrow, but they could still manage a win if Peavy is able to bear down and use his control to force the Royals’ hitters to chase as they are prone to do. Today’s Giants’ win was stellar, and hopefully tomorrow’s game can be great as well.

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