San Francisco Giants

Giants will have to contend with Royals’ speed game

Kansas City Royals coach Ned Yost speaks to media before Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals coach Ned Yost speaks to media before Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. AP

-- Royals manager Ned Yost shared a somewhat surprising revelation on World Series media day.

"This might shock some people," Yost said, "but I don’t think I’ve put a steal sign on all year."

That runs counterintuitive to what anybody who has watched the Royals this season, and especially this postseason, has witnessed. Kansas City stole 153 bases during the regular season -- most in the majors and 15 more than the second-place Dodgers -- and so far in the playoffs has swiped 13 bags in 16 tries.

Speedy reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson’s saying, "That’s what speed do," has become a kind of mantra for the Royals, and it applies not only to their baserunning tendencies but their ground coverage in the outfield as well. Still, it’s the running game that dominated talk during media day -- and that the Giants will no doubt have to contend with starting tonight in Game 1.

"We’ve obviously got so many guys on our team that can take a base," Dyson said at the media day team availability. "I’m sure somebody’s going to be stealing bases."

It should come as no surprise to the Giants, given what happened last time they were here at Kauffman Stadium. In the finale of a three-game series in August, Kansas City swiped seven bases including five against starter Tim Lincecum. Granted, it was rookie Andrew Susac behind the plate that day, and Buster Posey figures to be behind the plate for all of the games in this series.

But Posey is well aware of the challenge the Royals’ speed presents. Asked Monday how to contend with that speed, Posey said: "Keep them off the bases as much as we can."

Posey added that it will be important for the Giants’ pitchers to vary their times to the plate and change up their looks to occupied bases to keep the Royals’ runners honest. That task falls first to Game 1 starter Madison Bumgarner, who has made a concerted effort in recent seasons to be better at holding runners on.

Two seasons ago, opposing baserunners were successful on 27 of 37 stolen base attempts against the left-hander. This year, Bumgarner allowed just seven stolen bases and picked off six runners.

"When he came up, he had the big leg kick and he really made a big turn," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "If they guessed right, you really had no chance of getting them.

"But he’s more conscious of the running game (now), and he knew that was probably a weakness in his game. So he’s gone to a quick slide-step that he can use, he’s got a better move over there."

Bumgarner said knowing the Royals may be more prone to take off won’t change the way he holds them on.

"I concentrate on holding runners, no matter who it is," Bumgarner said. "You’ve got to do all the little stuff to try to hold guys on, but you can’t let it affect your pitching."

Dyson, who is not in the starting lineup against Bumgarner, said Royals players do their own individual work studying opposing pitchers, but much of their preparation is thanks to first-base coach Rusty Kuntz.

"Rusty Kuntz does his homework on every pitcher as far as getting a key where we can steal a base, something like that," Dyson said. "We don’t have to do too much homework -- we can go home, get our sleep, knowing Rusty’s doing his job."

Yost, too, said Kuntz plays a main role in managing the running game -- one reason Yost gave for never putting on the steal sign.

"All of our running is green-light stuff," Yost said. "Rusty and I have a sign at first base, but Rusty does a great job with identifying keys, identifying pitch selection and priorities in terms of percentages, and just a great feel when to go. We take advantage of that, and we let players be players."

Yost said his players "like the freedom of being able to play the game and the freedom to take chances." However it comes about, one thing seems certain: When this series finally gets underway this evening, there will be running.

The Giants’ lineup for Game 1 against Royals right-hander James Shields:

CF Blanco

2B Panik

C Posey

3B Sandoval

RF Pence

1B Belt

DH Morse

LF Ishikawa

SS Crawford

And the Royals’ lineup against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner:

SS Escobar

RF Aoki

CF Cain

1B Hosmer

DH Butler

LF Gordon

C Perez

2B Infante

3B Moustakas

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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