Royals' bullpen to the rescue once again

The Royals scored a run in the first, took a 3-0 lead in the sixth and held on for a 3-2 victory as their bullpen tossed four hitless innings. That makes it seem a lot easier than it looked. Five key moments and areas of discussion:

1. The clock strikes three in the sixth.

Break open the THIRD TIME THROUGH THE ORDER debate that inevitably sends the sabermetric-minded community on Twitter into a festive uproar. The top of the sixth actually began with a debate on whether the Royals should pinch-hit for Jeremy Guthrie, who was leading off the inning but hadn't allowed a run and had retired 11 in row (but also hadn't struck out a batter). It was a reasonable sabermetric argument given the strength of the Royals' bullpen -- with a lead, you're only looking to get one more inning out of Guthrie as is. Anyway, Tim Hudson retired Guthrie but Alcides Escobar singled on a grounder up the middle, bringing up Alex Gordon.

OK, the way I saw those: Gordon brought up the left-handed portion of the Kansas City lineup as three of the next four hitters were left-handed, a possible time to use LOOGY Javier Lopez. Bruce Bochy doesn't like to use Lopez against right-handers, so his decision would have been: Hudson versus Gordon (and Lorenzo Cain) or Lopez versus Gordon, Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. I know the third time through the order thing, but this looks like a 50/50 decision at best to me. You have a groundball pitcher in Hudson against Gordon but Lopez has allowed a .431 OBP against righties, so you don't want him facing Cain. No right-handers were warming up in the bullpen and it's a little early to start going left-right-left from the bullpen.

Hudson stayed in and Gordon doubled over the head of Gregor Blanco to break an 0-for-17 stretch and give the Royals a 2-0 lead. For all the talking about managers: Let's give credit to the players. Gordon beat Hudson and that's the bigger event here, not whether Bochy left Hudson in too long to go to a bullpen that requires a lot of matching up for maximum effectiveness.

Lopez then came on to face Hosmer, who fouled off six pitches before lining a base hit to center on a 3-2 fastball to score Gordon. Again: The players win and lose the games. Terrific, clutch at-bat by Hosmer.

2. Kelvin Herrera gets Pablo Sandoval to end the sixth.

Trouble is, Guthrie couldn't get that shutout inning, which made the sixth and seventh innings very interesting. The statheads who wanted Guthrie removed after five were nodding their heads after Brandon Crawford singled and Mike Morse roped a double past Moustakas into the left-field corner to make it 3-1 and get AT&T rocking with some noise. Only then did Ned Yost go to his vaunted bullpen, but Herrera walked Gregor Blanco on four pitches -- throwing fastballs in the mid-90s instead of his 100-mph gas.

He cranked it back up to 99 against Joe Panik, who chopped a high bouncer back to the mound, the runners moving up. Herrera now faced the heart of the Giants lineup, in what could end up being two of the most crucial at-bats of the World Series. Buster Posey, still looking for his first extra-base hit of the postseason, grounded out to second on a 96-mph fastball to make it 3-2. Pablo Sandoval, batting from his stronger left side, stepped in:

1. 101 mph fastball for a strike.

2. 99-mph fastball fouled off.

3. 100-mph fastball grounded to first base.

Royals 3, Giants 2. Pretty exciting sixth inning there.

(The bottom of the seventh was interesting as well as Brandon Finnegan was needed to get the final two outs.)

3. Wade Davis. Greg Holland. Game over.

Twelve pitches and two strikeouts for Davis. Eight pitches and two comebackers to the mound for Holland. Considering Herrera has thrown 59 pitches between Games 2 and 3, he's probably unavailable for Game 4. Yost may need to get a few more outs from Davis and Holland.

4. Lorenzo Cain's catches.

Yes, two moments here, but two excellent catches. Yost made the decision to improve his defense by inserting Jarrod Dyson into center field for his first start since Sept. 20 and by moving "Not a Gold Glove finalist" Cain over to right field and it paid early dividends as Cain snared Buster Posey's line drive to end the first inning and made a diving catch on Travis Ishikawa in the second -- both plays that Norichika Aoki may not have made. One reason Guthrie was able to throw those five scoreless innings to start the game without a strikeout was because of Cain's two catches. Score one for Yost.

Salvador Perez also came up with a couple of big defensive plays, nailing Hunter Pence trying to steal second in the second inning with an absolute rocket of a throw -- evidence why he's likely to win his second Gold Glove in a row. He then scampered out -- OK, maybe Perez doesn't scamper -- from the behind the plate to field Gregor Blanco's bunt in the eighth and fired another laser to just nip Blanco at first.

5. Travis Ishikawa's catch in the second inning.

With Tim Hudson still scuffling in the second, the Royals looked like they had a chance to extend their first-inning lead when Mike Moustakas singled and Omar Infante walked leading off the second. Salvador Perez then lined a ball toward the left-field line -- the danger zone with converted first baseman Ishikawa roaming. He didn't get the best read on the play but got to it and made a diving catch, the ball a few inches off the ground. If he doesn't make the play, the ball goes into the corner for a two-run double and a commanding 3-0 lead.

Hudson wasn't out of the inning yet, but he got the speedy Dyson to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play, a double bonus since it meant the pitcher would be leading off the next inning.