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Royals hold off Giants in pitcher's duel to take 2-1 World Series lead

The Royals beat the Giants 3-2 Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series and improve their record this postseason to 10-1. The Giants, who once had a 1-0 lead in the Series, will now turn to Ryan Vogelsong to try to even it up in Game 4 on Saturday night, while the Royals will counter with lefty Jason Vargas.

Here are some thoughts Kansas City’s victory in Game 3:

High Tide and Green Grass 

In the final two games of the American League Championship Series against the Orioles and Game 1 of this World Series, the Royals went 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position. The first time they got a man in scoring position in Game 2, however, they snapped that streak, with Billy Butler delivering an RBI double and initiating a 5-for-9 team performance with runners in scoring position that night. In Game 3, the Royals went just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, but they didn’t lack for big hits or the ability to score the runners they got on base.

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Alcides Escobar led off the game by doubling off the left-field wall on Tim Hudson’s first pitch in World Series play, and while the next two batters went 0-for-2, they did so via a pair of productive groundouts to bring Escobar around to score. The Royals failed to capitalize on a first-and-second, no-outs situation in the second, but when they next put a man on base in the sixth, they again brought him  in. Alex Gordon, moved up to second in the batting order with Norichika Aoki on the bench, plated a one-out single by Escobar with a double of his own and Eric Hosmer, after a groundout by Lorenzo Cain, singled home Gordon to give the Royals a 3-0 lead. With that, the Royals plated three of the first five men they put on base.

Hosmer’s hit proved to be the game-winner after the Giants scored two runs in the bottom of the inning, and it was well-earned. With Gordon on second and two outs, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy called on his lefty-killer Javier Lopez to face the lefty-swinging Hosmer. Lopez got ahead 0-2, but Hosmer battled back, fouling off five pitches and running the count full before finally singling Gordon home on the 11th pitch he saw from Lopez.

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Revenge of the Sixth

In Game 2, Giants starter Jake Peavy had retired 10 straight men heading into the sixth inning, but failed to get an out in the sixth as the Royals blew the game open with a five-run frame. In Game 3, Hudson and Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie combined to retire 20 straight batters from the final out of the bottom of the second through the end of the fifth for the longest streak without a runner reaching base in World Series play since Sal Maglie and Don Larsen combined to retire 23 straight in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series (yes, Larsen’s perfect game). The sixth inning, however saw each team put three men on base and score two runs as both managers turned to their bullpens despite their starter’s low pitch-counts (76 for Hudson, 77 for Guthrie).

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword 

It’s no secret that Ned Yost’s game plan is to get a lead to his relief trio of Kelvin Escobar, Wade Davis and Greg Holland as quickly as possible. He said as much himself in his in-game interview with the FOX booth in the middle of Game 3. With Guthrie, who had been allowed to hit for himself to lead off the top of the sixth, having given up two hits and his first run to the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth, Yost, as he did in Game 2 of this Series and Games 1 and 4 of the ALCS, called upon Herrera with a man on second, no outs, and the top of the Giants’ order coming up. Herrera walked the first batter he faced, Gregor Blanco, and allowed the lead runner to score on a pair of groundouts, but escaped further damage, retiring Joe Panik, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval in order.

With the pitcher’s spot due up fourth in the top of the seventh, however, Yost found himself in something of a pickle when eighth batter Jarrod Dyson, who started in center field with Lorenzo Cain moving to right in AT&T’s spacious outfield, singled with two outs. What did Yost do? He let Herrera, who had never come to the plate as a professional in the majors or minors since signing with the Royals’ organization as a 17-year-old, hit for himself.

2014 World Series: Royals vs. Giants position-by-position breakdown

in place.

Things didn’t go exactly according to plan in the bottom of the seventh. Herrera walked leadoff man Hunter Pence and then struck out Brandon Belt. With Herrera up to 27 pitches in the first of three games in three nights, Yost called on rookie lefty Brandon Finnegan to face lefties Travis Ishikawa (who was pinch-hit for by rightyJuan Perez) and Brandon Crawford. However, Finnegan got his men, and Wade Davis and Greg Holland worked perfect eighth and ninth innings to nail down the 3-2 win. Altogether, Herrera, Finnegan, Davis and Holland worked four scoreless innings without allowing a hit.

And that’s how managerial savant Ned Yost won a one-run World Series game in a National League park in which his starting pitcher lasted just five innings without using a pinch-hitter. In fact, having started the game with his best defensive outfield, Yost didn’t use a single position player off his bench.