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Inning that changed the World Series

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was a Game 6 that didn't exactly evoke any memories of Carlton Fisk. Or Kirby Puckett. Or David Freese.

No novelists will have to retell its tale in reverent, microscopic detail. No "30 for 30" crews will be setting up camp at Ned Yost's house and asking him to relive it. No baseball poet could even have made it through all nine innings without grabbing the remote and clicking over to watch Tim Duncan.

In theory, everybody knows Game 6 of the World Series is ordained by the baseball gods to be a special night when October classics unfold before our eyes, as grown men weep and memories are made. But somewhere in the middle of a 33-minute, 19-second second inning that blew open Game 6 of this World Series, it became evident that in real life, the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals never got that memo.

So "Masterpiece Theater" it wasn't. But 50 years from now, if the Royals go on to win the 2014 World Series, the euphoric residents of Kansas City will remember this Game 6 every bit as fondly as the Don Denkinger Game.

"Hey, to us, every one is a classic right now," the Royals' Danny Duffy said with a laugh late Tuesday, after his team's 10-0 Game 6 squashing of the Giants.

Good point. But who saw this one coming? Anyone? The Giants began their day one win away from their third championship in five years. They ended it on the wrong end of the fifth biggest Game 6 blowout in World Series history -- a wipeout that tied this back-and-forth World Series at three games apiece.

So now, after an odd but compelling series in which just one of the first six games was decided by fewer than five runs, these teams have set the stage for something great in a grand finale that will feature the oldest Game 7 starting pitching matchup ever: Tim Hudson, age 39, versus Jeremy Guthrie, age 35.

For the Giants, despite the ugliness that ensued Tuesday, history remains within their grasp. No National League team has won three World Series in a five-year span in nearly seven decades. That amazing feat is still out there for them.

But for the Royals, this is different. This is monstrous. This is an opportunity to change the lives of an entire generation of barbecue lovers.

Since the last time the Royals won a World Series, 29 interminable years ago, the Yankees have won five of them. The Red Sox have won three of them. That team across the state, the Cardinals, has won two of them. Sixteen different teams have sprayed champagne, including a couple that didn't even exist the latest time the Royals did it.

So what the Royals gave themselves an opportunity to achieve Tuesday night was bigger than just the chance to win one more baseball game. They also gave themselves the opportunity to accomplish something powerful in the lives of their entire fan base.

As the enormity of what just happened on the sparkling green grass of Kauffman Stadium began to sink in, it was still difficult for these men to grasp the possibilities of what might be next, a mere 24 hours away.

"I've never won a World Series, and I'm 26," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "So I can't give you perspective on that. But being a fan, you know 29 years for these people is a long time. So we're excited to give this city something to cheer about right now."

Heck, they were excited just to walk back out on their home field Tuesday and hear those people roar. But whatever they expected might unfold in this, the most important baseball game played in Kansas City in nearly three decades, there was no way they ever could have seen this game coming.

"I know I definitely couldn't," James Shields said, "because we didn't do it too often during the season."

Yep, you might say that, given that the Royals won exactly one game by double digits all season -- a 12-2 thumping of the Diamondbacks on Aug. 5. And no team had won a shutout by double digits since -- whaddayaknow -- the 1985 Royals did it in an 11-0 Game 7 mashing of the Cardinals.

But then this game, and maybe this World Series, took a legal U-turn in a wild second inning that lasted longer than "The Mindy Project." Eleven Royals hitters stopped by home plate in that inning, which we're tempted to call "The Moustakas Project." Doug Kern, ESPN Stats & Information's trusty kernel collector, tallied up what went on while they were up there:

• Pitches: 40

• Pitches from the stretch: 38

• Pitches that bounced: 4

• Hits: 8

• Hits with runners in scoring position: 6 (in 9 at-bats)

• Seconds elapsed between the first pitch and the last: 1,999

Now, it certainly wasn't an inning of the rockets red glare. There were two bloopers that fell in. There were two ground balls that barely missed Giants' gloves. There was a chopper off the asphalt -- oops, we mean dirt -- in front of the plate that actually caromed over the shortstop and turned into a double. There was an infield single by Alcides Escobar on which Giants first baseman Brandon Belt followed pitcher Jake Peavy's orders to look the runner back to third and then lost a race to the bag.

There were also three broken bats, by Peavy's count.

"I don't know how many times in a 13-year career I ever broke three bats in one inning and didn't get an out on any of them," Peavy said while still trying to process it all.

However it unfolded, the Royals put up seven runs (the biggest World Series inning by any team in four years) and spewed eight hits (making them the fifth team in history and second in the past 81 years to get that many in one inning). After a while, it looked like one of those arcade baseball games in which runners just keep circling the bases, over and over -- except these guys were real humans.

"It was just guys getting hits," Lorenzo Cain said. "Getting a hit. Getting a hit. Getting a hit. Next thing I know, we've got six, seven, eight runs. And I'm like, 'Wow.'"

OK, so he got a little carried away. That eighth run didn't score until the next inning. But whatever. The Royals were so hot for so long that by the time Peavy exited, he'd thrown 42 pitches to get four outs, and he'd become the first starting pitcher to get that few outs -- and give up that many hits (six) and runs (five) -- in a Game 6 since Buck O'Brien in 1912.

And even after Bruce Bochy tried to limit the damage by calling in the heretofore untouchable Yusmeiro Petit, the Royals promptly got three straight hits off him, too. Before that, Petit had faced 42 hitters in this postseason and given up just four hits.

"Just a frustrating inning," Peavy said. "It seemed like they hit it right where they needed to hit it that whole inning."

Only four other teams in history have won a World Series Game 6 by 10 runs or more to force a Game 7 the next day: the 2001 Diamondbacks (15-2 over the Yankees), the 1968 Tigers (13-1 over the Cardinals), the 1982 Cardinals (13-1 over the Brewers) and the 1960 Yankees (12-0 over the Pirates). Just the Pirates recovered, thanks to the world-renowned William S. Mazeroski, to win Game 7.

"This team will be fine," Peavy said firmly. "There's not any part of me that's worried about this team having a hangover for Game 7."

The men around him in the Giants' clubhouse shared the sentiment, naturally. They have 13 players in uniform who were part of the Giants team that won six straight elimination games just two Octobers ago, including a Game 7 in the National League Championship Series.

"If you told me [in spring training] that we were going to be playing the seventh game in the World Series," Bochy said, "I think we'd all be doing cartwheels."

But history says it's actually the Royals who should be doing those cartwheels. No team has lost a Game 7 at home since the 1979 Orioles, and no team has won Game 6 at home and then lost a Game 7 since the 1975 Red Sox.

When Cain was asked if he knew that history, though, he started waving his arms furiously.

"I don't think I want to know," he said. "I'm definitely not a superstitious type guy. But to me, it's whoever steps up and gets it done tomorrow."

He couldn't be more right, of course. The history books won't be playing baseball Wednesday night. That will be two tough teams that keep roaring back from the endangered species list -- and can't wait to do it one more time.

"It's awesome," Cain said. "I've never been a part of anything like this before. So to be part of a Game 7, winner take all, it's very exciting. Let's get this thing started. I can't wait to play."