SAN FRANCISCO – Coming home has its advantages. The Giants sought to gain as many as they could Friday night, short of ipecac in the visiting punch bucket.
They watered the infield dirt till it was a fine slurry, hoping to muddy up those royal blue fleet cleats. They had the full, throaty support of a sellout crowd. They knew how to predict the behavior of every outfield brick.
But someone would’ve noticed if they moved the Kansas City Royals bullpen to Milpitas. And short of that, it was hard to envision them having much of a chance to recover in what became a 3-2 loss in Game 3 of the World Series.
Wade Davis and Greg Holland, purveyors of filth that they are, did not give back the last bit of a 3-0 lead. Kansas City’s tremendous defenders hogged both armrests. And as a result, the Royals hold a 2-games-to-1 edge. It is the first time the Giants have trailed in an active World Series since 2002, when the Anaheim Angels won two of the first three games.
Starting pitching report
Tim Hudson called it the most important start of his baseball life. And that includes a hell of a lot of living.
After 457 major league starts, plus 11 in the postseason, and more than 3,000 innings all told, Hudson threw his first pitch in a World Series. And Alcides Escobar rammed it off the left field wall for a double.
The Royals clearly had a plan to be aggressive and hunt first-pitch strikes. Alex Gordon followed with a first-pitch grounder that advanced Escobar, and with the middle infielders playing back, Lorenzo Cain’s ground ball to short plated Escobar.
Hudson escaped the first inning when he covered first base on Eric Hosmer’s ground ball down the line. Brandon Belt made a nice pickup and Hudson leaped to catch the high throw and step on the base.
Fifteen months after he shattered his ankle while trying to cover first base, leaving the field on a stretcher and wondering if that would be his last act as a professional baseball player, Hudson sprightly stepped on first base to conclude his first ever inning in the World Series.
He soon rose to meet the moment, but not before a single and a walk to start the second inning. It took a diving catch in left field – making up for a very shaky route – from Travis Ishikawa to prevent what would’ve been a disastrous, two-run hit for Salvador Perez. Ishikawa rallied to make the play, Hudson got supercharged runner Jarrod Dyson to ground into a double play.
With his sinker/cutter combination getting plenty of late movement, there was no reason for Bruce Bochy to make a change in the sixth. But the Royals 6th is the new Cardinals 7th.
Escobar hit a one-out single and Gordon doubled over the head of center fielder Gregor Blanco on a rare mistake from Hudson, giving the Royals a 2-0 lead. Hudson got Cain to ground out, and with two lefties due up, Bochy went for the matchup with Javier Lopez.
Hudson’s line: 5 2/3 innings, four hits, three runs, one walk and two strikeouts. He threw 76 pitches, 50 for strikes.
Lopez has made a career of retiring left-handed hitters and stranding inherited runners. But Hosmer gave him one of the greatest battles of his career.
Mixing fastballs and sliders while also planting a seed with a 71 mph curve, Lopez got ahead 0-2 but couldn’t finish off Hosmer. The full sequence: Fastball taken for a strike, fastball fouled off, slider fouled off, curve fouled off, fastball for a ball, fastball fouled off, fastball in dirt, slider fouled off, slider fouled off, fastball to run the count full and one more fastball lined past Lopez’s outstretched glove and into center field for an RBI single that made it 3-0.
Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs determined it was the first time a left-handed batter worked Lopez for a plate appearance of at least 11 pitches since J.T. Snow back in 2005.
Lopez persevered and struck out Mike Moustakas in an eight-pitch at-bat. Then Lopez sat down in the dugout and shook his head.
Bochy usually doesn’t use his frontline relievers when behind, but you weren’t going to see Jean Machi or Hunter Strickland in a one-run game. Although Tim Lincecum got loose at one point, Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt ended up recording four outs apiece and Santiago Casilla entered to get one out in the ninth.
At the plate
Royals manager Ned Yost jiggered his entire lineup so he could take out Norichika Aoki, instead putting Dyson in center field and shifting Cain to right in a bid to make a trick outfield as tightly locked as Alcatraz.
On some level, it might have been an overreaction. But it worked. Cain made a difficult catch to take a hit away from Buster Posey in the first inning. Cain ranged even further while sliding to rob Ishikawa in the second.
Former Stanford pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was the recipient of all that glovework, yielding just two hits in the first five innings. And the Giants turned one of those hits into an out when catcher Salvador Perez made a tremendous throw to nab Hunter Pence in the second inning. (The Giants sure appeared to overwater the infield dirt in a bid to slow down the Royals – and perhaps the sloppy track worked against Pence there.)
Guthrie had retired 10 consecutive when Brandon Crawford singled to start the sixth, and with their window closing before Yost could unchain his Bullpen Cerberus, Bochy struck with his most dangerous pinch hitter.
Michael Morse was down 0-2 to Guthrie, including a mammoth foul that hit the facing of the third deck in left field. But Morse worked the count full, taking a 2-2 fastball that the right-hander rared back to throw following a lengthy mound conference. Then he didn’t miss a 3-2 pitch down the middle, smoking a grounder that skipped over third base and never slowed down till it reached the left field corner for an RBI double.
Out went Guthrie and Yost unleashed the hounds. Kelvin Herrera had trouble finding the zone while walking Blanco on four pitches, then Joe Panik put a 2-1, 99 mph fastball into play. His chopper to the mound was safer than a sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners. Posey, who still didn’t have an extra-base hit in 59 plate appearances this postseason, nevertheless put a ball in play for an RBI ground out to second base that cut the Royals’ lead to 3-2.
Pablo Sandoval grounded out to strand Blanco at third, and the Giants never came closer to scoring the tying run. Davis threw an unhittable mix of 12 pitches, with Blanco coming up short on a bunt attempt (with Perez looking nothing like a 6-foot-3, 240-pound brute as he nimbly fielded it and fired an off-balance throw) and Panik looking as bad as he’s ever looked while striking out for just the third time in 61 postseason plate appearances.
Holland hadn’t blown a save since July 24 but had to protect a one-run lead while going through the heart of the Giants lineup. Posey flied out, then Sandoval and Pence hit consecutive comebackers. Holland speared the last one as he fell off the mound, and shoveled the ball to first base as the Royals spilled out of the dugout.
Do the Giants get fined $500 for overwatering the infield in a drought?
The Giants announced a paid crowd of 43,020 -- plus, no doubt, Robin Williams in spirit.
The Giants and Royals meet in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday. The Giants were listing Ryan Vogelsong (0-0, 5.19 ERA) as their starter, although they had not ruled out the possibility of turning to Madison Bumgarner on short rest. The Royals will send left-hander Jason Vargas (1-0, 2.38) to the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. PDT.