Programming note: For the most comprehensive World Series coverage, watch "SportsNet Central: October Quest" Monday at 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO – About the only thing that could bring the Royals any solace Sunday night was the thought of returning home to their adoring fans.
All else they would like to forget about the past two days at AT&T Park.
Their West Coast stay began in promising fashion with a pitching-dominated 3-2 victory in Game 3 to give them a 2-1 edge on the Giants in the World Series. Then a four-run rally in the third inning of Game 4 gave them a 4-1 lead in that contest.
Since then, the Royals have had it handed to them. In the past 21 innings of this Fall Classic, Kansas City has scored in just one of them. And since that four-run rally in the third inning of Game 4 on Saturday, the Royals haven’t advanced a single runner past second base.
On the heels of Saturday’s come-from-ahead 11-4 loss, the Royals were overwhelmed by Giants ace Madison Bumgarner in Sunday’s 5-0 Game 5 defeat. What else was there to do afterward but tip their cap to the lefty?
Bumgarner has pitched 31 career innings in the World Series. He’s allowed exactly one run.
“You never get in a hitter’s count,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “He just has that cutter that bails him out. He mixes speeds on that very well. He’s a tough guy to really get comfortable at-bats (against). It just seems like a constant battle.”
What’s amazing is how the Giants have completely neutralized the Royals’ biggest offensive weapon, which is their speed and aggressiveness on the bases. Through five World Series games, Kansas City has managed just one stolen base.
Part of that is because the Giants just aren’t allowing them many opportunities. Since the third inning of Game 4, the Royals have generated just nine base runners.
Given that, any sign of a potential rally for the visitors on Sunday needed to be maximized to the absolute fullest. After Omar Infante doubled with one out in the fifth, No. 8 hitter Jarrod Dyson was due up followed by the pitcher’s spot. With right-handed hitters Billy Butler and Josh Willingham available on the bench, manager Ned Yost simply let the game play out against the lefty Bumgarner.
Dyson, whose great speed has yet to make an impact this series, waved at an off-speed pitch for strike three. Royals starting pitcher James Shields also went down swinging, the Royals best opportunity against Bumgarner vanished, and it remained a 2-0 game.
In Yost’s defense, Shields was in sharp form on the mound, and after Kansas City’s middle relief turned Game 4 into a debacle, the thought of calling on his relief corps at that point couldn’t have been very appealing.
“It was too early right there,” Yost said. “We were still looking to keep our defense in the game.”
Any run the Giants scored was going to be big with the way Bumgarner was dealing. But in the bottom of the second, with Giants on second and third and one out, Yost played his middle infielders back and in effect conceded a run when Brandon Crawford hit a grounder to second that put San Francisco up 1-0.
Of course, any strategic maneuvering on defense was only going to accomplish so much given the row of goose eggs that Royals’ hitters put on the scoreboard.
Now, as the World Series shifts back to the Midwest, can the Royals, trailing 3-2 in this best-of-seven matchup, draw enough inspiration from a rowdy Kauffman Stadium crowd to swing the tide back in their favor?
Yost broke it down in a manner we’ll call … creative.
“We’ve got to walk the tightrope now without a net,” he said. “But our guys aren’t afraid of walking the tightrope without a net. We fall off and we’re dead. But we win Tuesday and nobody’s got a net. It’s gonna be winner take all.”