My 23rd Fall Classic assignment kicked off in mid-America at Kaufmann Stadium as the Kansas City Royals, who had waited 29 years to get back into baseball’s postseason, hosted the San Fransicso Giants, a team who has been to the World Series in three of the last five years!
Kansas City, on the west end of the “Show Me” state, exhibited quite a contrast in “baseball enthusiasm” when compared to covering fall baseball on the opposite end of the state in St. Louis.
Maybe it’s the fact that the Cardinals always seem to be playing baseball in October and the Redbird faithful have, perhaps, become a bit spoiled and that yes, there had been a 29 year draught in Kansas City… The mood and fan interest in KC was, shall I say, “amped up”! Fun times!
Game One featured the Royals James “Big Game James” Shields versus the Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner. Right from the get go, the Giants gave their number one starter a three run lead in the first inning and seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the Kansas City faithful. Although Bumgarner didn’t seem to be as dominant as he was against the Cardinals in the League Championship Series, he was still finished with 7 strong innings, giving up three hits while striking out five.
Shields almost got out of the first inning giving up only one run as Buster Posey’s dash to the plate in an attempt to score on Pablo Sandoval’s RBI double fell short, only to have Hunter Pence pick up Posey with a two-run home run.
The powerful Royals offense never seemed to get it going, as Bumgarner kept them off-balance all night.
Game Two was quite the opposite. Former White Sox starter Jake Peavy matched up with the Royals young stud, Yordano Ventura. Peavy at one point retired 10 Royal batters after wriggling out of trouble early.
Ventura kept the Royals in the game after a shaky start. The game was tied at 2 through five as both teams squandered opportunities.
Peavy ran into trouble in the sixth and once Giants manager Bruce Bochy got into the bullpen, things came apart quickly for the Giants as the Royals proceeded to put up a 5 spot.
Brandon Belt didn’t do the Giants much of a favor when he bluffed taking third on a fly ball in the fourth inning, only to be doubled off second after Yordano Ventura backed up the overthrow from Nori Aoki.
The Royals broke the game open as I mentioned with a five-run sixth inning as Kaufmann Stadium and the Royals came to life.
A bit of bizarre occurred as the Royals blew the game wide open when, apparently, Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland’s reaction to Omar Infante’s home run didn’t go over very well with the Royals Salvador Perez. Perez had to be physically pushed off of home plate by home plate umpire Eric Cooper to allow Infante to score.
The benches briefly cleared, but order was soon restored and the game ended quite calmly as the Royals knotted the Series up at one game a piece.
It will be interesting to see if there is any carryover to Game Three and beyond from this short lived, but lively, confrontation.
Nothing like a little “chippiness” to make things interesting out in the City by the Bay.