KANSAS CITY -- In the quiet of his office before Game 6 of the World Series, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was asked to recall an October night in Philadelphia four years ago, when with a chance to clinch a postseason series he took his struggling starter out after just two innings.
"If you don’t think your guy’s on that day," Bochy said, "you’ve got to make a move."
Hours later, Bochy again found himself going to his bullpen much earlier than he had hoped to. Starter Jake Peavy retired just four batters before the Kansas City Royals knocked him out with two runs already in and the bases loaded in the second inning. By the time the book closed on Peavy and the Giants were out of a nightmare inning, the Royals had scored seven times, en route to a 10-0 win at Kauffman Stadium.
This series will come down to Game 7 Wednesday evening in Kansas City, with the momentum, and the history, solely on the side of the Royals. Of the last 15 home teams that won Game 6 to force a winner-take-all Game 7 in a World Series or League Championship Series, 14 have gone on to win the series.
Things unraveled quickly for Peavy in the second. Alex Gordon lofted a leadoff single to center, Salvador Perez lined a single over second baseman Joe Panik and Mike Moustakas hit a ground ball just inside the first-base bag for a double that scored Gordon.
Peavy struck out Omar Infante, and Alcides Escobar hit a slow chopper to first baseman Brandon Belt. Peavy signaled for Belt to look toward the plate, but Perez held at third and Belt’s attempt at tagging Escobar near first base missed, loading the bases with one out.
The Royals made it hurt with four consecutive hits. Nori Aoki’s single up the middle scored one run and ended Peavy’s night after 42 pitches. Yusmeiro Petit entered and surrendered a two-run single to Lorenzo Cain, a two-run double to Eric Hosmer -- on a ball that ricocheted off the hard dirt around home plate and over shortstop Brandon Crawford’s head -- and a double to right-center from Billy Butler that drove in Hosmer.
By the time Petit got Perez to pop out to end the inning, the Royals had sent 11 men to the plate in the second, scoring seven times on eight hits. It matched the most runs allowed by the Giants in a postseason inning; the last time was the 1936 World Series, when the New York Yankees scored seven times in the ninth inning of Game 6.
The Giants had a chance to take some momentum back in the top of the third, as Royals starter Yordano Ventura walked three straight batters to load the bases with one out. But Buster Posey hit a chopper to shortstop Alcides Escobar for an inning-ending double play.
Three days after the Giants exploded for 11 runs on 16 hits in Game 4, the 23-year-old Ventura held them to three hits in his seven innings. After the third inning, the Giants did not put another runner into scoring position until the seventh, when Ventura walked Travis Ishikawa with two outs and Brandon Crawford singled. Gregor Blanco popped out to third baseman Mike Moustakas in foul ground to end the inning and Ventura’s night.
In his two World Series starts, Peavy totaled just 6 1/3 innings while allowing nine runs and 12 hits. It continued a disturbing trend for the Giants in these playoffs. In his six starts, ace Madison Bumgarner has a 1.13 ERA while allowing 26 hits in 47 2/3 innings. All other Giants starters have combined for a 5.40 ERA in 10 games, totaling 46 2/3 innings and allowing 52 hits.
Right-hander Tim Hudson is scheduled to start Game 7 for the Giants against Kansas City right-hander Jeremy Guthrie.
When the Giants left San Francisco on the heels of Bumgarner’s four-hit shutout Sunday night, it was the fifth time in franchise history they had taken a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven playoff series. They have won only one of the previous four series -- that 2010 NLCS in Philadelphia, which they clinched in Game 6 after Bochy relieved starter Jonathan Sanchez after just two innings.
Despite the early hook for Peavy, the Giants found themselves staring at a deficit Tuesday that they could not overcome. And the result conjured memories of something Brandon Belt had said before the game.
"You want to take advantage of the moment," Belt said when asked about the Giants holding a 3-2 lead. "We want to come in here and do whatever we can not to give them any, I guess, glimmer of hope."
The Royals have one now. And this series, and season, boils down to one more game.