It's Giants ace Madison Bumgarner against the Royals' top starter in James Shields as the Royals and Giants meet in Game 1 of the World Series.
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Status: Since 1987, only four teams have lost Game 1 and rallied to win the World Series (the 1992 Blue Jays, '96 and 2009 Yankees, and '02 Angels), and the Jays are the only team since 1982 to lose Game 1 on the road and come back to win the Series. That said, if we look at the full sample of the 163 previous best-of-seven series in postseason history, the winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 106 times. That's 65 percent, an exact match for how often the Game 1 winner would take a best-of-seven series if the remainder were determined by coin-flips.
Matchups: In each of his first four starts this postseason, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner has thrown no fewer than seven innings and allowed no more than three runs. Altogether, he has posted a 1.42 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 5.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those games. In his two road starts this postseason, Bumgarner has not allowed a run in 16 2/3 innings, a performance that echoed his 2.22 road ERA during the regular season (compared to 4.03 at home).
He did, however, take the loss in his one start against the Royals during the regular season, which came in Kansas City on Aug. 8. Bumgarner worked eight innings in that game, but gave up four runs (three earned) and took a complete-game loss. The Royals out-pitched him by getting five solid innings from their starter (Jason Vargas), then four scoreless innings from the relief quartet of Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland.
Look for Royals skipper Ned Yost to employ a similar strategy in this game. His ace, James Shields, has been a disappointment thus far this postseason, posting just one quality start in three turns (and failing to pitch past the sixth inning even then). In his other two starts, Shields has allowed four runs in five innings. Given that and the outstanding work turned in by his bullpen, Yost is likely to hook Shields early if the Royals have a lead. That said, in Shields' only start against the Giants during the regular season, he threw his only shutout of the year, allowing just four hits and a walk on Aug. 9 at Kauffman Stadium.
A career American Leaguer, Shields doesn't have a long history against any of the Giants' hitters, but Hunter Pence and Buster Posey have failed to reach base against him in a combined 15 plate appearances, 11 of them Pence's. Bumgarner's history against the Royals hitters is similarly limited, though former Brewer and fellow lefty Nori Aoki is 0-for-13 against him, while righty Billy Butler went 2-for-3 with a home run against Bumgarner in that Aug. 8 game.
The Streak: The Royals set a record by winning their first eight games of this postseason. However, the 2007 Rockies, who won a regular-season playoff to claim that year's NL wild-card berth, then went 7-0 to start the postseason, effectively matched the Royals' run to this point. The Royals can separate themselves from the Rockies with a win in this game, not only because they'd own that record outright at 9-0, but also because the '07 Rockies didn't win a single World Series game, getting swept by the Red Sox after having eight days off after the NLCS.
The Royals have had five days off coming into this series, just one more than they had between the Division Series and ALCS, and just one more than the Giants have coming into this series. For that, they can thank the rainout of Game 3 of the ALCS, which pushed the final two games of the ALCS back a day.
Rosters: The Royals have swapped out the utility infielder on their World Series roster, adding veteran journeyman Jayson Nix in place of rookie Christian Colon. The move defies easy explanation, as both Nix and Colon are righthanded hitters, and Nix, despite his travels, has almost no experience against the Giants' pitchers (1-for-5 career against the entire San Francisco staff). Colon also out-produced Nix, a career .212/.282/.345 hitter, during the regular season. In fact, Nix has yet to reach base as a member of the Royals, going 0-for-8 with a sacrifice fly after being claimed off waivers at the end of August and striking out in his one at-bat in the Wild-Card Game.
The move is unlikely to have any impact. Colon appeared in just one game in the Division Series and ALCS combined, doing so as a defensive replacement, and didn't come to the plate in either series. Still, he did single, steal a base, and score the winning run in the Wild-Card Game after putting up solid numbers at both Triple-A and in his limited major league opportunities this season.
The Giants, meanwhile, have made no changes to their roster. That means Tim Lincecum, who has not appeared in a game this postseason despite being on the active roster in every round, continues to occupy a spot.