Let's make it a game to remember . . .
I wrote about the pitching matchup between Tim Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie. Considering both teams have good and rested bullpens, I don't expect either pitcher to go more than five innings, even if they're pitching well. We haven't had many Game 7s in recent years to draw many conclusions about how Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost will handle Hudson and Guthrie. Usually, if a starter is pitching well enough, he's left in for six innings (Chris Carpenter in 2011). If he's pitching poorly, he'll be yanked (Livan Hernandez allowed four runs and was pulled after two-plus innings in 2002). The one exception was John Lackey, who had allowed one run in five innings in 2002, but Mike Scioscia then turned the game over to the bullpen. Lackey was pitching on three days' rest, but that's likely the blueprint we'll see tonight.
That's if both starters keep runs off the board. Both managers should be quick to the bullpen. As Jonah Keri writes on Grantland, Madison Bumgarner's availability is the ace in the hole for Bochy. You can see a scenario where Hudson goes four, Bumgarner goes two or three and then the four relievers -- Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla -- finish it off.
Considering Guthrie's platoon splits (lefties hit him hard), Yost should be even quicker to the pen because he has Danny Duffy, Brandon Finnegan and Tim Collins down there from the left side. There's no reason to leave in Guthrie in a big spot, even in the second or third inning, with runners on base and a left-handed batter up there. Yost has to be thinking he can get five or six innings out of Finnegan, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
As Joe Sheehan pointed out before Game 6, Herrera has been pushed much harder than Davis or Holland in the series and hasn't pitched as well after returning for a second inning of work. He has thrown 83 pitches in the World Series; Davis and Holland just 24. Yost should maximize Davis and Holland for more than three outs while limiting Herrera. In fact, considering Davis' strikeout rate, if there's a big jam in the middle innings, I'd go to him to get out of it before Herrera.
The one lineup change is that Bochy has inserted Juan Perez in left field, his first start against a right-hander in the postseason. It's a move that had to be made as Travis Ishikawa has become just too much of a defensive liability in the outfield, with several misplays throughout the World Series. Now, Ishikawa gives Bochy another weapon off the bench and could be used in the right spot to pinch hit for Perez against a right-hander if the Giants are trailing.
Royals fan and Grantland contributor Rany Jazayerli previews Game 7. He thinks the Triborg relief corps should each go two innings.
Hudson and Guthrie are control pitchers, but it will be interesting to see if walks become a big part of this game. The Giants have drawn 23 walks in this series and the Royals just 10. Both teams, of course, put the ball in play and we've certainly seen our fair share of bloopers and bleeders.
The Royals still have just one stolen base in the series. Hudson allowed 15 steals in 18 attempts, so he's a guy you can run on. Bumgarner, if he gets in, allowed just seven steals in 17 attempts. Among the relievers, Affeldt is the easiest to run on, as he allowed six steals in six attempts. Considering Hudson gets a lot of ground balls, you have to think the Royals will try to run on him or at least get the runners in motion with hit-and-run plays.
This is where I say Buster Posey still doesn't have an extra-base hit in the postseason.
While there has been some drama in the middle innings of this series, in the end we've had just one close game. While all the analysis leads to the idea that it will become a bullpen game, it's also possible either starter will blow up early, much like Hernandez did in 2002, and we end up with a 4-1 or 5-1 snoozer. We've had just five home runs, so an early two-run homer could be huge. Still, I think this game likely comes down to the factors everyone is suggesting: How many innings the Giants can get out of Bumgarner in the middle of the game (and whether he'll be effective) and how many innings the Royals can get out of Herrera/Davis/Holland (and how they'll presumably be effective).