SAN FRANCISCO -- Wait, the final score was 11-4? Yes, the scoreboard reads blowout but it was a fascinating contest as the Giants tied the World Series with the win. Trust me. Five key moments from AT&T Park:
1. The Panda delivers in the sixth inning. Yes, the sixth.
— #OctoberTogether (@SFGiants) October 26, 2014
— SB Nation MLB (@SBNationMLB) October 26, 2014
In free agency, Pablo Sandoval is going to ask for everything between Sacramento and Santa Barbara, and get it.
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) October 26, 2014
Brandon Finnegan impressively poised after game, says baseball "will kick your teeth in" but if you can't take it, "sports isn't for you."
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) October 26, 2014
Game tied in the sixth inning. The inning that decided Games 2 and 3. The inning may decide this World Series. In a perfect world, Ned Yost has ace reliever No. 1, Kelvin Herrera, to use at some point. But Herrera had thrown 27 pitches the day before and 32 pitches in Game 2 if you want to count that; only once in his career had he pitched the day after throwing more than 25 pitches, so Yost was reluctant to use him. You can debate the merits of that but at some point it seemed likely the Royals were going to have to win a game relying on some relievers not named Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
The Royals had pinch-hit for Danny Duffy in the top of the sixth after Jarrod Dyson led off with a single, but Norichika Aoki grounded into a 3-6-3 double play, nicely turned by Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. That set the stage for what may turn out to be the crucial inning of the series.
Rookie reliever Brandon Finnegan came on. At this point, Yost had to be thinking four or five outs from Finnegan, four or five outs from Davis and then Holland and hope that the Royals took the lead in the meantime. The only relievers left were Herrera and Tim Collins.
The play-by-play: Joaquin Arias pinch-hit for Yusmeiro Petit and singled. Gregor Blanco tried to bunt, couldn't get it down and flared a hit to left. It was one of those games. Joe Panik bunted the runners up and Buster Posey was intentionally walked.
Yost then brought his infield in with one out. Keep this decision in mind. You don't really see that move too often as you usually want to keep the double play in order. Pence, by the way, grounded into a double play in 10 percent of his DP opportunities, a little less than the major league average of 12 percent. He hit a hard grounder to the right of shortstop Alcides Escobar, who threw home for the force. Two outs. But: Would they have turned two if Escobar had been playing back. Maybe. Or maybe the ball shoots into left field as he would have been shaded a step or two closer to second. Who knows.
So that brought up Sandoval, batting from the right side where he hit .199 during the regular season. He had struck out earlier against Jason Vargas, whiffing badly on a pitch off the plate and in the dirt. But Sandoval has been raking hits all October and he lined a first-pitch fastball up the middle for a two-run single, Giants fans turned up the volume and waved their Panda heads and enjoyed a great World Series moment. And then Belt singled to make it 7-4.
Needless to say, a lot of second-guessing from all the armchair and Twitter managers out there. No Davis? No Herrera? But Finnegan was one out away from getting out of the inning and had Sandoval hitting from his weak side. The Panda just won this battle.
2. Yusmeiro Petit is alive!
— #OctoberTogether (@SFGiants) October 26, 2014
The valuable swingman had pitched twice in the postseason, allowing just two hits and no runs over nine innings. He had somewhat curiously been left unused in Games 2 and 3 as the Giants let games slip away in the middle innings. Maybe Bruce Bochy knew a game like this was going to happen. Or something.
Petit came on in the fourth when the Giants were down 4-2. There was a minor firestorm on Twitter when Petit batted with two outs and a runner on first against Vargas in the bottom of that inning. Mike Morse had originally stepped out on deck but after Crawford made the second out, Bochy let Petit hit away. I thought it was the right call -- there was a lot of baseball left to be played and the Giants had already burned Matt Duffy as a pinch-hitter. Use Morse there and you're down to just three position players the rest of the way, one of whom is your backup catcher (and we know how managers are loathe to use their backup catcher). Plus, take Petit out and you're trusting Tim Lincecum to give you at least a couple innings and while he looked OK the other night, that's a shaky proposition. (Petit actually blooped a single -- all the bloopers! -- to center, although the Giants didn't score.)
Petit then worked out of the fifth after a leadoff double by Eric Hosmer and then got that big double play in the sixth. All told: 33 pitches, 23 for strikes, in his three innings and the W in the box score. That's 12 scoreless innings now and you have to think he's a candidate to start Game 6 or Game 7. Or at least be a very early relief option in those games.
3. Baseball is a game of inches.
— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) October 26, 2014
The smallest of small ball.
— Craig Brown (@royalsauthority) October 26, 2014
Is Yusmeiro Petit hurt or just not allowed to pitch? He has good numbers but they never seem to use him.
— Royals Review (@royalsreview) October 26, 2014
The top of the third inning started off innocently enough with Jason Vargas -- a very good hitter back in his college days at Long Beach State -- making solid contact and flying out to deep center field. Then Alcides Escobar singled up the middle -- his third solid hit in two games after two hits (and two runs scored) in Game 3. Alex Gordon then grounded into a 3-6 force play, with Brandon Belt's throw to Brandon Crawford a little high, preventing any chance at a double play. Not sure the Giants would have turned it there anyway as Gordon runs pretty well and considering the wet conditions at the time. Anyway, two outs, runner on first, not that harmful of a situation ...
Gordon steals second. Lorenzo Cain reaches on an infield single that Crawford had to circle around. He made a nice effort, but Cain's blazing speed and long stride beat the one-hop throw. OK, no damage yet ...
Eric Hosmer chops a 1-0 changeup to the right of first baseman Belt, a roller between first base and the pitcher's mound. With Ryan Vogelsong covering, the left-handed Belt had to make an awkward turn and flip and Hosmer -- as you can see in the tweet above -- just beat the throw as Vogelsong missed the bag to give the Royals a run and 1-1 tie.
From there, the inning disintegrated for Vogelsong into some bad pitches and bad luck. Perhaps unnerved by the play at first, he walked Mike Moustakas to load the bases.
Omar Infante then lined a 2-2, 90-mph four-seam fastball to center for a two-run single. Vogelsong got burned by some bad luck in the inning but look below at the location of the pitch: Down the middle and Infante didn't miss. Salvador Perez then blooped a single to center for a 4-1 Kansas City lead. A crazy, wild inning that sums up the unpredictable -- and often lucky -- nature of baseball.
— MLB Fan Cave (@MLBFanCave) October 26, 2014
When this inning started 29 minutes ago, it was 1-0 Giants. It is now 4-1 Royals, and that was with the pitcher getting out twice.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 26, 2014
4. Jarrod Dyson's catch is pretty, but Giants tie the game.
— MLB Fan Cave (@MLBFanCave) October 26, 2014
Last night, I asked Jarrod Dyson if it feels like nothing can drop when he plays alongside Cain: "That’s the point," he said.
— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) October 26, 2014
After a scoring a run in the fourth, the Giants tied it in the fifth as the Royals burned through Vargas, Jason Frasor and Danny Duffy trying to get out of the inning. Joe Panik started the inning off with a double in the right-center gap off Varges, Hunter Pence singled to center, getting jammed a bit on a fastball but having enough strength to get it past the shortstop. Duffy then came on to turn Sandoval around to his weaker right side, but Sandoval lined a base hit to left, Pence getting a great read on the play and hustling into third.
That bit of baserunning proved key when Juan Perez blooped a ball -- all the bloopers! -- to center field that Jarrod Dyson somehow caught. I was sitting in the upper deck in left field with a great angle to watch the play and couldn't believe Dyson got there. Anyway, just like that, Kansas City's 4-1 lead had evaporated as we headed for the critical sixth inning -- the inning that I had written before the game could very well be the crucial inning with Kelvin Herrera unlikely to pitch for the Royals.
— MLB (@MLB) October 26, 2014
The series is tied. The Royals have Games 6 and 7 at home. The Giants can only start Bumgarner once. We're still in good shape.
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 26, 2014
Ned Yost: "Somewhere inside of me, secretly I had hoped it would go seven games for the excitement and thrill of it." Ned Forever.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) October 26, 2014
Wait, is this a moment? Of course it is. Best-of-three. Madison Bumgarner going for one of the greatest postseasons ever for a pitcher. The Royals trying to pull off the impossible dream. I can't wait.