Programming note: For the most comprehensive World Series coverage from Kansas City, watch "October Quest" today at 4 p.m., and immediately after Game 2 on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
KANSAS CITY – Eric Hosmer saw his opportunity to get the Royals back into the game Tuesday, or so he thought.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, he took a rip at the first pitch from Madison Bumgarner. The cutter dove out of his wheelhouse, and Hosmer tapped an inning-ending grounder to second base.
Another golden chance never came for Kansas City in a 7-1 loss to the Giants to open the 110th World Series.
Bumgarner, who gave up just three hits over seven innings, appeared to be toying with Royals hitters. He jammed them on the fists. He got them to chase out of the strike zone. In short, he kept their frustrations high and their hopes low as they tried to battle back from a 3-0 first-inning deficit.
The left-handed hitting Hosmer said he and his teammates got dissected by a pitcher at the top of his game.
The cutter “is one of his key pitches,” Hosmer said. “You see it well the whole way and right when you go to swing, it has that bite going away from you. Obviously it’s a pitch he’s been using a lot and that’s what makes him so good. Even when we got in hitters’ counts, he had that cutter to bail him out.”
Several Royals pointed to that wasted opportunity in the third, when the Royals put runners on second and third with no outs and came up empty, as the key to the game. Alcides Escobar chased a fastball at eye level for strike three, Nori Aoki struck out on three pitches, and after a walk to Lorenzo Cain loaded the bases, Bumgarner retired Hosmer on that first-pitch grounder.
“Right there we could have possibly made it 3-2, and I really feel like the game doesn’t get out of hand if we just play fundamental baseball,” Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said. “That’s the first time this postseason, the first time in a long time, we haven’t played fundamental. That stuff happens.”
Kansas City beat Bumgarner 4-2 in an Aug. 8 game at Kauffman Stadium, though he wasn’t too shabby that day. The lefty took the loss in a complete-game effort, and the Giants defense didn’t do him any favors by committing three errors.
One thing he did Tuesday night was change speeds masterfully. Take a fifth-inning at-bat against Mike Moustakas, when Bumgarner showed the Royals third baseman fastballs at 92, 92 and 93 miles per hour, then struck him out on a 67 mile-per-hour curve.
“You see what he did,” Moustakas said. “It’s really tough when you can throw 94 and then drop down to a 67 mile-per-hour curve. It’s a tough at-bat. He’s got a slider that runs all the way across the dish. You gotta battle against that guy. We just didn’t get it done.”
On top of the wicked stuff, Escobar said Bumgarner’s delivery can be tough when you don’t face him often.
“He’s going back,” Escobar said, rotating his shoulders to mimic Bumgarner’s windup. “I’ve faced other lefties who are not easy, and that guy is really tough.”