Some leftover thoughts on World Series Game 7 on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium:
▪ A lot has been made about not sending Alex Gordon home in the ninth inning after his two-out single got past San Francisco center fielder Gregor Blanco and rolled to the wall with the Royals down, 3-2, against Madison Bumgarner.
I’ve heard this a lot from Royals fans, especially in the wake of Salvador Perez’s weak pop foul that Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval caught for the game’s final out.
It’s nice for Royals fans to think that the Giants would have botched the relay play, especially given the circumstances and the pressure. But you also have to remember that these are major leaguers and they work on relay plays hundreds of times in spring training and even during the regular season. Gordon would have been out at the plate by 40 feet if the Giants had handled the baseball correctly in that spot.
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You have to hold him at third base and give Perez a chance. It was Perez who drove home the game-winning run in the AL Wild Card game against Oakland on Sept. 30. It was Perez who solved Bumgarner for a home run in Game 1 of the World Series, the only time the Royals scored against the Giants’ ace in 21 innings.
It didn’t work out. And when it didn’t, the revisionist history folks went to work, criticizing Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele for not waving Gordon home.
Imagine he had been thrown out easily. Imagine how you would have felt then. Imagine how Perez and other teammates would have felt. It was a no-brainer to hold Gordon and give Perez a shot.
▪ Even though Bumgarner has proven to be Superman, it had to give the Giants some pause Wednesday night when the first hitter Bumgarner faced after coming into the game in the fifth inning, Omar Infante, laced a base hit. No one could be absolutely sure just how much Bumgarner had left after throwing 117 pitches in a 4-0 shutout of the Royals on Sunday night in Game 5 at AT&T Park.
Infante’s hit certainly got a huge rise out of the jam-packed crowd at Kauffman. And with Kansas City trailing, 3-2, it provided hope that maybe, just maybe, the Royals were going to get to their nemesis.
But the next batter, leadoff man Alcides Escobar, sacrificed. Escobar is 1 for 14 in his career against Bumgarner and he gave an out to get Infante to second and bring Nori Aoki to the plate.
Aoki, though, has never had a hit against Bumgarner. He’s now 0 for 18 after flying out to left field in the fifth. Lorenzo Cain struck out to end the inning, the second of 14 in a row set down by Bumgarner before Gordon’s two-out single in the ninth.
Why bunt with Escobar?
Great question. Sure, his numbers against Bumgarner aren’t great. Whose are? But he had a hit in his previous at-bat against Gaints starter Tim Hudson and he knows how to handle the bat. How about a hit-and-run there? How about something other than a sacrifice?
Especially with Aoki coming up. And why, exactly, was Aoki allowed to hit?
He wasn’t even in the lineup much when the Royals were playing by National League rules in San Francisco. And he has been pulled from games in the sixth or seventh innings all postseason long so that Jarrod Dyson can improve the outfield defensively.
The Royals had other options, including Josh Willingham, who is 1 for 3 against Bumgarner. Even aged Raul Ibanez would have made some sense, given that he’s 1 for 1 against Bumgarner.
Repeat, Aoki hasn’t had a hit in 19 plate appearances against Bumgarner.
▪ The Royals have to do something about their impatient approach at the plate. It’s stood out all season and it was especially apparent again in Game 7, when time and again Kansas City hitters chased balls out of the strike zone. It happened with Perez in the ninth inning as he chased two or three Bumgarner fastballs that were high and out of the strike zone.
Kansas City has to be able to work more counts and draw more walks. Kauffman Stadium is not a home-run ballpark, but it rewards teams taht can scratch and claw for ones. Taking walks and working counts are two of the best ways to scratch and claw, and the Royals just don’t do enough of either.
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