Programming note: For the most comprehensive World Series coverage, watch "SportsNet Central: October Quest" Sunday at 4 p.m., and immediately after Game 5, on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO – Have you heard the one about Bruce Bochy’s hat?
Of course you have. Everyone has. It’s a special order, size 8 1/8, a woolen anecdote unto itself. It could hold a small municipal reservoir. Fill it with nickels and you’d be rich beyond the dreams of avarice. It doubles as a spare ball bucket.
It does not, however, fly off the manager’s head in a fit of frustration.
That is what happened to Bochy’s hat in the third inning Saturday night, as out of place as the stars and stripes amid gum wads and seed husks. It arrived there on a frustrated flick of the wrist from the manager following a chopper to the right side and an awkward angle to first base and a blind, backwards stab with a foot where Ryan Vogelsong found flat-earth disappointment instead of a base.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants storm back, rout Royals 11-4 in Game 4]
A run scored, the smallest seams had come undone, and the cotton batting began to spill out for the Giants, who already trailed two-to-one in this World Series. Vogelsong gave up a two-run single, then a one-run single, and the Kansas City Royals stood over the bed with a smother pillow.
“I didn’t throw it,” Bochy said of his cap. “But I did hit the dugout with it. Occasionally, I do show emotion in that dugout.”
That is what Game 4 of the World Series became at AT&T Park: One show of emotion after another, pops and spark showers of it, loud as a rock concert and as soulfully satisfying as a revival meeting.
The Giants nickeled the Royals in the third, dimed them in the fifth, and after they paid back their three-run deficit in full, they started throwing the manhole covers. They plugged and plugged some more until they felt like Bochy’s Millionaires, tying the all-time postseason record by receiving hits from 11 different players while hectoring the Royals for an 11-4 victory that allowed them to turn an even-money series over to their fully rested ace.
Madison Bumgarner will reprise his matchup with James Shields in Game 5 – the farewell game of the season at Third and King, before the series shifts back to Kauffman Stadium. And who knows what can happen now?
Two key players hoisted the Giants into this series-tying victory: Yusmeiro Petit threw three more sanitized-for-your-protection innings and Pablo Sandoval traded his right-handed sand wedge for a functional swing while coming up with two huge hits that included the tiebreaking, two-run single in the sixth.
But this was more of an ensemble piece. Not only did the Giants receive at least one hit from all eight starting position players, but they had four different batters reach base from the No. 9 spot – and Vogelsong wasn’t one of them. Even Petit, who was 5 for 103 with 44 strikeouts in his career, threw out a miracle single to center – the first NL reliever since Jesse Orosco 28 years ago to get a hit in the World Series.
“Eleven different guys recorded a hit. Is that a record?” said Hunter Pence, unwrapping his taped ankles at his locker. “I’d like to know if that’s a record. Either way, that’s what our message was before this game, and everyone bought in and it was pretty special.”
And that message was …
“It’s everyone pulling together, everyone locked in for each other,” Pence said. “We wanted to come out and … well, um, that’s all I’m going to give you. I mean, there’s way more, but I’ll leave it at that. Some things are just for us.”
Here’s something for Pence, then: The last time a World Series team received hits from 11 different players, it was 1960 and Mickey Mantle was swatting two home runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
No matter how their pitchers fared in Game 4, this was a game the Giants offense needed to win. In their Game 3 loss, they watched the Royals shrink the outfield with their smothering defense and shrink the game to six innings with their hot-water bullpen. The Royals exert subtle pressure that way, putting you in a diving bell and making you believe you’re running low on oxygen. The Giants won Game 4 and drew even in this World Series for one reason. They were not afraid to breathe.
Vogelsong had good stuff but lasted just 2 2/3 innings – the shortest start by a Giant in a World Series game since Livan Hernandez went two innings in that fateful Game 7 loss in 2002 at Anaheim. The Giants’ odds weren’t much more promising against the Royals this time. Teams were 30-105 in the World Series when a pitcher had failed to record the third out in the third inning.
Yet when Vogelsong walked off the mound, his fists balled in frustration, he had not abandoned hope.
“I could really sense a … I’m not sure how to say it, but I guess … a desire today,” Vogelsong said. “Not that we don’t bring it every day, but it was really a sense these guys would refuse to lose today. I felt it before the game and in the dugout. It was like, they were going to find a way.”
They started their comeback from a 4-1 deficit in the third when rookie Matt Duffy hit a pinch single and scored from second base on Buster Posey’s two-out hit. They tied it in a two-run fourth on three more hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly that Jarrod Dyson sprawled to catch while ripping the turf in shallow center field. And they went ahead in a three-run sixth inning that began with another pinch hit – Joaquin Arias this time – and a two-out, two-run line single from an October performer who batted .199 from the right side in the regular season and took fairway bunker swings while striking out vs. lefty Jason Vargas in his first two trips.
“When I struck out my first two at-bats, I put so much pressure on myself,” said Sandoval, a .378 hitter with eight RBIs in nine career World Series games. “I had to tell myself to relax. Get a pitch to hit.”
Royals manager Ned Yost is an easier target than a paper donkey this October. But there’s no sticking him for bringing in left-hander Danny Duffy to turn around Sandoval.
“I thought we had the situation right in the palm of our hand,” said Yost, who didn’t second-guess his shortstop, Alcides Escobar, for throwing home on Pence’s ground ball with the bases loaded instead of going for two. “We walked Posey. Pence smoked a ball right to Escobar. We got the (forceout) at the plate. We thought about playing back (at double-play depth), but in the first inning, I thought Pence hit a tailor-made ground ball … and still beat it out.
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“So, okay, let’s play the infield halfway and anything hit, we’re going to cut off the run at the plate and when we’ve got Sandoval up. We all know the difference between right- and left-handed averages. He was just clutch right there. He did a great job of hitting it up the middle with the bases loaded. It was just a great at-bat. Won the ballgame for them.”
So did the Giants’ steady fizz of smart and effervescent baserunning, a heels-dug bullpen and a kill shot, two-run double from Joe Panik in the seventh.
“We had to win this game tonight, no matter what,” Vogelsong said. “I think the shift came when Petit came in and shut the door and let the lineup go to work. We had to tie this series and get the ball to Madison.”
Petit, in three cape-flapping postseason appearances, has thrown 12 shutout innings while giving up four hits and striking out 13. He is Tim Lincecum, circa 2012, with a neck beard.
“What he’s doing is extremely hard – extremely,” Vogelsong said. “I was a long man for two years and Pittsburgh and not very good at it. It’s extremely hard to go a week or 10 days with no game action and be as crisp as he was. That is very, very hard.”
When Petit came within a strike of a perfect game last year, only to be denied, he said God had something more important planned for him. In August, he set a major league record by retiring 46 consecutive batters in eight appearances spread over 38 days, appearing once with eight days of rest and once with a nine-day break.
This time, he had 10. And he can call himself the winning pitcher in a World Series game.
“Yusmeiro Petit, to me, is the unsung hero of our team this whole season,” Pence said. “What he’s done is nothing short of amazing. That’s what gives me chills right now, just to be a part of that.”
Petit stabilized the game and the offense leapt off the gurney.
Giants third base coach Tim Flannery traced the comeback spirit to a moment before the team even trailed, when Gregor Blanco manufactured a run in the first inning. He drew a walk, aggressively took second base on a wild pitch that barely squirted away from Salvador Perez, stole third base and then perfectly reacted to Pence’s ground ball. Mike Moustakas fielded it and Blanco, who was close enough to hear the Royals third baseman breathing, froze two steps off the bag. At the moment Moustakas committed to second base, Blanco took off. Pence beat the relay, the Giants had a run and a thought was planted in Yost’s head – one that contributed to setting up Sandoval’s winning hit in the sixth.
“How about Gregor, though,” Flannery said, smirking. “Runs on a ball in the dirt, steals third and he did it just to prove we don’t water down the basepaths.”
This time, the Giants burned them up.
Flannery was especially proud of what Panik did in between his two doubles, when the rookie put down a sacrifice bunt to set up Sandoval’s tiebreaking hit. It was just the second time the rookie was asked to sacrifice this year. But it was a situation he and Flannery had rehearsed, nearly line for line, in 7 a.m. bunting practice against the pitching machine at Scottsdale Stadium.
“He said, 'It’ll be the World Series, a big situation and you’ll need to get a bunt down,’” Panik said. “Well, I guess he said it’d be the seventh game. But other than that, it’s funny how it all came together exactly like he said it’d happen. I thought about it: `Step out, breathe and believe you’ll get the job done.’ I had to find him after the game to tell him that.”
When Blanco applied pressure with another bunt in the seventh, the Giants scored a run on an overthrow to first base. Because, hey, they had to squeeze a good ol’ RTI in there somewhere.
“We had the ground attack, we had an RTI, we had the gap attack,” said Flannery, who coined the acronym for a run thrown in during the NLCS. “The coaches, we’re coming in here chuckling about it. We threw everything at ‘em tonight.”
Now the World Series is down to a best-of-3.
“I say we just go one time and get it over with,” Flannery said. “I can’t take much more of this. Let’s just make it one for all the marbles, OK?”
As many marbles as you can fit in … well, you know. You’ve probably heard that one before.