Hitting coach Hensley Meulens stood in the clubhouse following the Giants’ 3-2 loss Friday night and ran down the difficulties presented by each member of the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen that his hitters had just faced.
Right-hander Kelvin Herrera, Meulens said, “throws 100 mph almost every pitch – that’s pretty good – and then he’s got a good changeup.” Setup man Wade Davis then enters “throwing 93-mph cutters and 86-mph curveballs that look like a fastball until it gets there, and it’s in the dirt.” Closer Greg Holland, meanwhile, didn’t allow a hit in September and hasn’t blown a save since July.
“They’ve proven all year that they’re tough to hit, so that’s not news for anybody,” said Meulens. “We’ve just got to make sure that we try to do what we did in the first game – score early so we don’t see them.”
The Giants were unable to do that Friday, their bats silenced by Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, a former Stanford star, until a two-run rally in the sixth inning while Kansas City pieced together a 3-0 lead against Giants right-hander Tim Hudson. And the Royals now hold a two-games-to-one lead in the World Series, ensuring that if the Giants are to win their third title in five years, they will have to clinch it on Kansas City soil.
The Giants had won six consecutive World Series games at home dating to Game 3 of the 2002 Series against the Angels. Just as unfamiliar was the feeling of back-to-back losses in October. Before dropping Game 2 in Kansas City, the Giants had lost just twice in their previous 18 postseason games.
They found themselves in the unenviable position Friday, though, of trailing the Royals by three runs entering the sixth inning, with Guthrie cruising and that vaunted bullpen trio looming. Brandon Crawford led off the sixth with a single, snapping a streak of 10 straight retired by Guthrie, and manager Bruce Bochy deployed his top bench threat in Michael Morse to pinch hit.
Morse validated the move, yanking a double down the left-field line that scored Crawford and injected some life into AT&T Park and an announced crowd of 43,020.
“I felt like that was a little spark,” said Morse, who pumped his fists as he neared second base, “a little momentum that we needed right there.”
It moved Royals manager Ned Yost to go to his bullpen, replacing Guthrie with Herrera. He walked Gregor Blanco on four pitches, and Joe Panik hit a high comebacker that moved the runners up to second and third with one out. Morse then scored, and Blanco took third when Buster Posey grounded out to Omar Infante at second.
But with the tying run 90 feet away, Herrera got Pablo Sandoval to ground out to first baseman Eric Hosmer to end the inning. The Giants managed just one more baserunner – Hunter Pence on a leadoff walk in the seventh – after which the Royals’ late-game trio and rookie Brandon Finnegan, who earlier this summer was pitching in the College World Series, retired the final nine Giants hitters of the game in order.
“I don’t know if there’s a better bullpen,” Bochy said afterward. “You’ve got a tough go when you’re facing those guys. Hopefully you get some runs early, but Guthrie did a great job on us.”
Though making his first-ever World Series start at 35 years old, Guthrie hadn’t waited nearly as long for the moment as his counterpart. After 16 regular seasons and more than 3,000 career innings, Hudson threw his first pitch in a World Series game at 5:10 p.m. Fri
day – and saw Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar hammer it for a double.
Bochy said he thought Hudson got “ambushed” on the pitch, a 91-mph fastball up in the strike zone. Said Hudson: “You don’t get swung at on the first pitch of the game too often. But it’s a pitch in the ballgame that can get hit.”
Escobar scored on Lorenzo Cain’s groundout, and the Royals put their first two runners on base in the second. But Travis Ishikawa made a sliding catch on Salvador Perez’s line drive to left field, likely saving two runs, and Hudson got Jarrod Dyson to ground into a double play as part of a stretch of 12 hitters retired in a row.
That ended with Escobar’s one-out single in the sixth, and Alex Gordon followed with a double to the center-field wall that scored Escobar. Gordon scored the decisive run two batters later, when Hosmer won an 11-pitch battle against reliever Javier Lopez by lining a single up the middle.
“He put up a great at-bat,” said Lopez, who had been ahead in the count, 0-2. “I threw some pretty good pitches, and he fouled them off. He just got me today.”
Guthrie benefited from some strong defense, including two sliding catches in right field by Cain, whom Yost shifted there to replace Nori Aoki because of the vast expanses at AT&T Park.
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