KANSAS CITY -– A seemingly harmless single made for a white-knuckle ninth inning for the Giants in Wednesday’s Game 7, and it provided quite a tease for Royals fans.
Alex Gordon’s soft two-out liner to center field skipped by the Giants’ Gregor Blanco and rolled all the way to the wall. The race was on, and as left fielder Juan Perez let the ball squirt out of his hand on the warning track, it appeared that Gordon might have a chance to circle the bases and tie the game in the most unimaginable manner possible.
Instead he was held up at third, and the next batter, Salvador Perez, popped out against Madison Bumgarner to give the Giants a 3-2 victory and their third World Series title in five years.
Afterward, the talk was whether Gordon should have been waved around by Kansas City third base coach Mike Jirschele. With two outs, there’s an argument that says the Royals should have put pressure on the Giants to execute the relay and make the play at the plate.
But Gordon did not appear to be blazing around the bases, and he was still a step or two from third base by the time Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford received the cutoff throw.
“It was a single, and once I saw it get by him, I just put my head down and ran,” Gordon said. “I was looking at Jirsch the whole time. I’m not as fast as (Jarrod) Dyson. But if I was, I probably would have scored. He made a good call holding me up, and with a great hitter like Salvy, we like our chances.”
It was a startling development simply because Bumgarner had been so dominant after entering in the fifth inning to relieve Jeremy Affeldt. Gordon’s single accounted for one of only two base runners he allowed in five scoreless innings. The other came on Bumgarner’s very first batter when Omar Infante singled.
[STIGLICH: Only thing Royals can do: Tip cap to Bumgarner]
Some of the Royals wondered if Gordon might try to score.
“Yeah, at first I thought he had a chance,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “But Jirsch held him up, and the ball was coming in. We were just one hit away to tie the game up.”
Added first baseman Eric Hosmer: “You definitely (wonder if he could have scored), especially when Blanco (missed) it trying to pick it up the first time. (Gordon) gave it his all. He put his head down and ran. That’s all you can do in that situation.”
Blanco, with champagne flying around all him in a joyous Giants clubhouse afterward, could flash some humor about the play.
“How do you like that ninth inning? I just wanted to make it interesting,” he joked. “As soon as it happened, I said, ‘Well, I’ve made some good plays for (Bumgarner). This is the time he’s going to have my back.’”
Bumgarner did, and the result was another World Series crown for the Giants.