Their starter knocked out in the third inning, their crowd stunned and silent, the Giants’ very season seemed on the brink of slipping away Saturday night. And then, in the span of a few innings, guided by the steady hand of a journeyman reliever and a furious outburst of offense, they wrested it back.
Down 4-1 to the Kansas City Royals in the third inning and in danger of coming within one loss of elimination in the World Series, the Giants stormed back for an 11-4 win at AT&T Park to even the series at two games apiece. They will send Madison Bumgarner to the mound tonight with a chance to take a Series lead before returning to Kansas City, Mo.
“I think we had to win this game tonight no matter what,” said starter Ryan Vogelsong, whose exit with two outs in the third inning signified how dimly the night began for the Giants. “And I think the shift came when (Yusmeiro) Petit came in and slammed the door shut and let our offense go to work.
“More than one guy played a huge game tonight for us.”
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At the forefront, though, was Petit, the 29-year-old long reliever who, pitching in the World Series for the first time, stabilized things for the Giants with three scoreless innings. Petit entered a 4-2 game in the fourth inning. By the time a different pitcher took the mound for the Giants, they led 7-4.
The right-hander has thrown 12 innings this postseason, allowing no runs, four hits and striking out 13. Saturday, he gave up a leadoff double to Eric Hosmer in the fifth inning and a leadoff single to Jarrod Dyson in the sixth. Both times, the runner did not move another 90 feet.
“You can’t overstate how important he’s been to us,” catcher Buster Posey said.
“He held them,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He gave us a chance to come back.”
They did so emphatically, tying the score in the fifth and taking the lead for good with a three-run sixth. The go-ahead hit was a bases-loaded, two-run single by Pablo Sandoval. It came after the Royals cut down the potential go-ahead run at home plate on Hunter Pence’s grounder with the infield in. It also came with Sandoval facing left-handed reliever Brandon Finnegan.
Sandoval already had struck out twice batting right-handed, and he hit just .199 against left-handers during the regular season. But he lined Finnegan’s first pitch up the middle to bring home Gregor Blanco and Posey, and Brandon Belt followed with a single that gave the Giants a 7-4 lead.
“For Pablo to put the first couple at-bats behind him and go out there and keep his head in the game – that’s the thing about this team,” Belt said. “You can have a couple of strikeouts early in the game, and you can also be the hero at the end. That’s kind of what happened.”
Said Posey: “I think when Pablo got that big hit, the momentum shifted. It seemed like we all relaxed a little bit more, and we were able to score some more runs.”
Four more to be exact, with six players driving them in. Eleven Giants had hits – even Petit, who singled in the fourth – and the Giants had 16 hits for only the fourth time in a World Series game.
The Giants did much of their damage against the early part of the Kansas City bullpen, preventing the Royals from handing a lead to their fearsome late-game trio for the third game in a row. Entering Saturday, Royals relievers had combined to allow just nine runs in 482/3 innings this postseason. The Giants scored eight times in four innings off the Kansas City bullpen in Game 4.
The Giants’ bullpen, meanwhile, combined for 61/3 scoreless innings after Vogelsong recorded his shortest postseason start, with things unraveling for him in the third. With the Giants up 1-0, Alcides Escobar singled with one out. Alex Gordon hit a grounder to Belt, who threw high to second base, getting the out but leaving Brandon Crawford no shot at a double play.
Lorenzo Cain then beat out an infield single to bring up Hosmer, who grounded into what should have been the third out to Belt’s right. Belt’s throw to Vogelsong covering first base was on time, but Vogelsong’s foot was nowhere near the bag, and as he jabbed for it, Hosmer got there first while Gordon sprinted home to tie the score 1-1.
Vogelsong spun away, flinging his right arm in disgust. In the dugout, Bochy took off his hat and slammed it against the railing. Vogelsong then walked Mike Moustakas on four pitches to load the bases, and Omar Infante shot a single back up the middle, scoring two runs. Salvador Perez’s flare scored Moustakas and knocked Vogelsong out of the game.
“I think if he gets out of that inning, he throws a nice game for us,” Bochy said. “He had buzzard luck.”
Jean Machi replaced Vogelsong, walked Jarrod Dyson and went to a 3-1 count on Royals pitcher Jason Vargas. But with the Giants’ season teetering, Machi came back to strike Vargas out, keeping the deficit at three. The Royals did not push another runner past second.
“You hear the term ‘team win’; it’s used quite a bit,” Bochy said. “But if you look at that game, everybody did something to contribute. All these little things added up for us mounting that comeback – a great comeback.”