SAN FRANCISCO – Brandon Finnegan is enjoying this roller coaster ride he’s on, even if he says it hasn’t all sunk in yet.
In June, he was pitching for the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs and living the life of a college student. On Friday, he entered Game 3 of the World Series and retired both batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh, helping the Kansas City Royals to a 3-2 win over the Giants.
In doing so, the 21-year-old lefty became the first to ever compete in the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same season. The hat he wore Friday night is headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
“I’m getting to live two dreams in one year – four months actually,” Finnegan said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I could get used to doing this.”
The Royals drafted him in the first round (17th pick overall ) in June. He made 13 appearances combined between Single-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas, then got called up to the bigs when rosters expanded Sept. 1.
The site of his major league debut? Yankee Stadium, where his two scoreless innings included a strikeout of Derek Jeter.
Finnegan is listed at 5-foot-11, but he must have been wearing some pretty thick socks when that measurement was taken.
As he warmed up in the bullpen Friday, a Giants fan yelled out: “You’re too short to ride this ride.”
“I turned around and gave him a thumbs-up because I thought that was pretty funny myself,” Finnegan told Yahoo Sports.
He entered in the seventh with a runner on first and one out, Kansas City clinging to a 3-2 lead. Finnegan retired pinch hitter Juan Perez on a fly out to left and then struck out Brandon Crawford, who chased a 95 mile-per-hour fastball out of the strike zone.
After the game, Finnegan checked his cell phone and estimated he had 70 messages from friends.
“I came back, and I had another 50,” he said.
In just a few weeks, he’s become a contributing member to perhaps the best bullpen in the entire major leagues. Royals manager Ned Yost prefers to use Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland in systematic fashion for innings 7 through 9, but it doesn’t always work out as scripted. Herrera was called upon in the sixth Friday to relieve starter Jeremy Guthrie, and Finnegan was needed in the seventh.
[STIGLICH: Defense difference-maker for Royals in Game 3]
“I think mentally it’s like he’s got four or five years in the big leagues,” Holland said. “I don’t know if it’s something he was born with or what. I think some people are just more composed than others at an early age and he does a real good job with it.”
But Finnegan isn’t so composed that he doesn’t realize how special these last few months have been.
“It sounds fake, huh?” he accurately observed. “It doesn’t sound real at all.”