Programming note: For the most comprehensive World Series coverage from Kansas City, watch "October Quest" Wednesday at 4:00 p.m.
KANSAS CITY – For 34 minutes, Hunter Pence stood in right field. For 34 minutes, Brandon Crawford smoothed dirt at shortstop and Brandon Belt blinked off first base.
For 34 minutes, Buster Posey sat in his squat, his legs full of acid from a long and trying summer followed by a fully taxing postseason, trying any combination of pitches that could extricate the Giants from a hull breach of a second inning in Game 6 of the World Series.
“What did it feel like?” Posey said. “It felt like 34 minutes.”
The Giants did not begin looking ahead to Game 7, the most heart quickening concept in baseball, following their 10-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday. They could begin that process much earlier: after the second inning, and those 34 minutes of bloops, broken bats, concrete bounces and throbbing cheers.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Peavy rocked, Royals force Game 7]
The Royals scored seven runs on Jake Peavy and Yusmeiro Petit. After that, Bruce Bochy had one goal: reverse engineer his bullpen, load his starters into lifeboats and save as much energy and emotion – whatever’s left at this final stage – for the ultimate winner-take-all sweepstakes.
Tim Hudson, who had never pitched past the first round in his baseball life, will start against Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. Madison Bumgarner will be available to pitch in relief, and perhaps multiple innings, on two days of rest. Someone asked Bumgarner how many pitches he could throw. He pegged the number at 200. He may or may not have been serious.
Every Game 7 of the World Series is a history making affair, and there is endless prologue. A road team hasn’t won Game 7 since 1979, and the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates. The home team has won nine consecutive Game 7s since then.
The Giants have not fared well in Game 7s, which is to say, they’ve never won one. They are 0-4, having lost to the Boston Red Sox in 1912 (officially a Game 8), the Washington Senators in 1924, the New York Yankees in 1962 and the Anaheim Angels in 2002.
For all the franchise pain erased by championships in 2010 and 2012, there’s still Charlie Brown wailing about Willie McCovey’s line drive, and why it couldn’t have been 3 feet higher. There’s still the breakdown in Anaheim, when Dusty Baker chose Livan Hernandez when the players wanted Kirk Rueter.
So if the Giants want to win a championship, they’ll have to do something they’ve never done before.
“Listen, this bunch don’t care,” Peavy said. “Nobody in this clubhouse cares about anything that happens in the past or anything that says we’re at a disadvantage. We’ve got to win one game and it’s on the road. We’ll be as confident as we were today, as we’ve been every other day.”
Said Bochy: “Yeah, well, my answer is to tell these guys they’re going against the odds, because we’ve done that before. This club’s so resilient. They’re so tough. They’ll put this behind them. It’s nice to know that you’ve done it, and you’ve come back against the odds, and you can do it again.”
Besides, the Giants enter this Game 7 in a very different way than they did a dozen years earlier. Back in 2002, they led the Angels by five runs with nine outs to get. Barry Bonds hit his eighth home run of that postseason. Shawon Dunston hit what would be the last homer of his career. The team was ready to celebrate that night. The collapse crushed them.
These Giants never had a chance to put plastic sheets over the lockers. The Royals saw to that, even if Peavy was still trying to figure out exactly how it happened.
“There’s nothing else I can tell you except we got the ball hit the way we wanted it to be hit,” Peavy said. “I can’t remember a time I’ve broken three bats in an inning and didn’t record an out.”
Peavy faced six batters and gave up five hits. The worst offender was the little dribbler Alcides Escobar sent to the right side, with one out and runners at second and third. Peavy pointed home and yelled at Belt, who pumped once before realizing that Salvador Perez wasn’t running on contact. Belt circled back to first base, where Escobar was too fast and his slide too elusive.
“I wanted him to check that runner,” Peavy said. “Honestly, the way I felt, especially against right-handers, I could’ve gotten out of that inning without giving up any more runs.”
Second baseman Joe Panik made it over to cover first base in time. Belt never saw him.
“That play, I mean, that usually doesn’t happen. It’s never happened, actually,” Belt said. “I had to make a split second decision: either look the runner back or take the time to look behind me to see of someone was covering (first). I saw him break towards home. That’s why I made that move towards home plate. He did his job right there. It was just a weird play and if it happens again, I’ll be more mindful.”
Bochy’s criticism was that Belt “waited just a hair too long. I thought that changed the inning.”
Both Bochy and Posey agreed with Peavy’s assessment of his stuff, with the catcher going as far to say it was the crispest he’s been all postseason.
“You want so bad to be successful,” Peavy said. “It’s almost easier to handle if you go out there and take a beating.”
The box score and stat sheets sure made it look that way -- and that goes for any Giants starting pitcher other than Bumgarner, who is 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in six postseason starts. The rest of the rotation is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 starts.
The numbers are even more disparate when you narrow it down to the World Series: Bumgarner is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and the others are 0-3 with a 9.82 ERA.
You understand why people are screaming for Bumgarner to start. He will not, Bochy said.
“This guy is human,” Bochy said. “You can’t push him that much. He’ll be available if we need him, but to start him, I think that’s asking a lot. I have a good pitcher going tomorrow, who has done a great job for us. That’s the reason.”
[RELATED: Bumgarner ready to go if needed in Game 7]
The Giants tried to play aggressively Tuesday night. They played the infield in even while trailing 4-0. Eric Hosmer hit a chopper off the asphalt-hard dirt in front of the plate, Crawford's shoulders fell when he realized he had no chance, and it ended up being a ridiculous, two-run double. The Giants tried to work rookie Yordano Ventura, even loading the bases in the third inning on three consecutive walks. Posey swung at a first-pitch 97 mph fastball and grounded into a double play.
On its face, it appeared to be a thoughtless swing. Why go after the first pitch after a guy just walked the bases loaded? Well, for starters, Posey had just watched from the on-deck circle as Panik worked Ventura for 11 pitches, fouling off several quality strikes, before taking ball four. This was not a classic pitcher out of sorts. For another, Posey hit .492 (30 for 61) with five home runs when putting the first pitch into play.
The strategy wasn’t the issue. A tired bat was. And Posey still does not have an extra-base hit in this postseason.
“I feel like it was something that was riding in,” Posey said. “His 100 is a little straighter.”
It is a little bit ridiculous to talk about pitchers dialing it back to 97 mph in October. Everyone’s arms are as heavy as steamer trunks this time of year. Everyone’s legs lack bounce. That is what makes Game 7 the sport’s ultimate showcase. It is a test of will, and it pits the two teams with enough endurance to make it this far. At least the Giants and Royals both have fully rested frontline relievers.
“We’re loaded tomorrow, I feel, and they are too,” Bochy said. “If you told me we were going to be playing in the seventh game of the World Series, I think we’d all be doing cartwheels. … We’ll throw everything at them, if necessary. There’s no tomorrow. We know that.”
Pence, perhaps in all that time he stood in right field, came up with the perfect metaphor.
“Game 7 is a gift,” he said. “It’s a gift for the whole world, and we get to play in it.”