SAN FRANCISCO – For a man who wound up on the wrong end of an 11-4 World Series game Saturday night, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost looked rather invigorated facing reporters afterward.
“We got our tails whipped today,” Yost conceded. “But it’s Game 4 of the World Series. We’re tied 2-2. How much more fun can that be? There is nothing better in the world. I’ve never felt so good about getting my tail whipped in my life, because I’m sitting here thinking it’s game 4. It’s tied 2-2. This is a phenomenal series.”
Well, that’s certainly one way to look at how events unfolded Saturday at AT&T Park. And a positive outlook counts for something in these situations, no?
The other way to look at it is that the Royals, sitting pretty with a 4-1 lead after batting around in the third, let the Giants storm back to knot this series, and in doing so, snatched the momentum heading into Sunday’s Game 5. The Giants will send No. 1 starter Madison Bumgarner to the mound – with thoughts of his dominant Game 1 performance still fresh in the Royals’ minds -- against struggling Kansas City ace James Shields.
On Saturday, Kansas City’s bullpen became a storyline in a much different way than we’ve grown accustomed to. The Royals may boast an intimidating late-inning threesome in Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. But that still leaves lots of game to navigate through when your starting pitcher only lasts four-plus innings, as was the case with Jason Vargas.
The middle-relief combo of Jason Frasor, Danny Duffy, Brandon Finnegan and Tim Collins got tagged for eight runs over four innings. Consider that Kansas City’s bullpen as a whole entered Saturday 7-0 in the postseason, having allowed just nine earned runs in 48 2/3 innings, a 1.66 ERA.
Even the stingiest bullpen is bound to buckle eventually when the starters are not gobbling up innings. In four World Series games, the Royals have had just one starter – rookie Yordano Ventura -- record an out in the sixth inning.
Yost wanted to be smart with Herrera on Saturday since the hard-throwing righty was coming off back-to-back outings of going an inning-plus. He said he planned to use Herrera in the seventh if the game had been tied, or even if the Royals trailed by one.
That became moot when the Giants scored twice in the fifth to tie it 4-4, then broke through for three in the sixth to command a 7-4 lead. Those go-ahead runs came off Finnegan, the 21-year-old rookie who took a bullet train from college ball to the majors after getting drafted out of TCU this past June. He got charged with five runs on five hits in one inning Saturday, and afterward, he received a pep talk from Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.
“I told Finney, ‘Listen, you’re disgusting. You’re nasty. Don’t ever forget how nasty you are,’” Moustakas said. “And he knows it. He knows he’s gonna be fine.”
The Royals struck for four runs in the third, sending 10 men to the plate and forging a 4-1 lead. But over the final six innings, Kansas City mustered just four base runners, and one of them was erased on a double play.
“We got them on the ropes,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said, “but offensively we gotta figure out something to put them away.”
Given the back-and-forth nature of this series, Yost was asked if he felt it would go the full seven games. Again, the glass-is-half-full viewpoint surfaced.
“Oh man, you know, somewhere inside of me, secretly, I had hoped that it would go seven games, for the excitement and thrill of it,” Yost said. “It sure looks that way.”
The man likes his drama.
He’s got it, with the World Series squared at two. Hopefully he likes a challenge too, because the Royals will have one Sunday when they dig into the batter’s box and see Bumgarner staring back at them.