World Series Game One: Christmas in October

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Oct 21, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baseball fans hold up mini American flags during the playing of God Bless America in the 7th inning during game one of the 2014 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It is Christmas in October, the first game of the World Series. Tonight the San Francisco Giants made the arduous trek to flyover country to take on the Kansas City Royals in the World Series opener.

The match up pitted Giants ace Madison Bumgarner against the Royals “Big Game James,” James Shields.

What follows in this space are my thoughts on the game as it happened, as well as some from Twitter.

The Giants got on the board early and never looked back. Gregor Blanco singled to lead off the game and moved to third on a Buster Posey single two batters later. Pablo Sandoval knocked Blanco home but Posey was thrown out at the plate.

The 6’4” and 220 pounds of crazy called Hunter Pence knocked a home run to center to empty the bases and give the Giants a 3-0 lead.

The Royals couldn’t answer back in the bottom of the first, but not for lack of trying. Nori Aoki was robbed of a hit on a liner back to the mound, and Blanco ran down a fly ball too deep right center to end the frame. It wasn’t a great inning for Bumgarner, but he got out of it unscathed.

Billy Butler picked up the Royals first hit in the bottom half of the second, but he was erased on an inning-ending, double-play ground out back to the mound off the bat of Salvador Perez.

Here are those stats you shouldn’t show your child; they are pretty ugly.

Shields cruised through the Giants in the top of the third inning, a long fly ball to right center by Sandoval was the only real threat but Lorenzo Cain ran it down. After that rough first inning Big Game James settled down and retired seven in a row.

Brandon Crawford

booted a routine grounder off the bat of

Omar Infante

to give the Royals a free base runner leading off the bottom of the third. The ball kicked off the heel of Crawford’s hand and dropped a few feet in front of him. Here is a Vine of the play courtesy of Fansided GIF:

Mike Moustakas followed with a double down the line in right to put two on for Alcides Escobar, who had nothing for Bumgarner and went down swinging. The first two pitches to Escobar were already up in the zone and the next two were well out of the zone, but he went after them anyway. Despite becoming an average hitter this season, Escobar still has terrible control of the strike zone and his strike zone control can be exploited by guys who throw hard and up.

MLB GameDay of Escobar’s K

Bumgarner followed that strike out by striking out Nori Aoki. He got up 0-2 on Lorenzo Cain, but threw three straight balls high to run the count full before walking him on a fastball low to load the bases. Bumgarner was very close to striking out the Royals’ three former Brewers in a situation that started with two men on and nobody out before failing to put away Cain. Eric Hosmer grounded out to end the inning. After the first third of the game, the Giants led 3-0. Pence doubled to lead off the top of the fourth, now certain to haunt Shields’ dreams tonight.

Brandon Belt walked and Pence advanced to third on a wild pitch to put runners on the corners with nobody out and get Danny Duffy up in the Royals pen. Michael Morse, DHing tonight, singled to center to bring in Pence and extend the Giants lead. That was it for Shields as Ned Yost called for Duffy to take over with two on and nobody out. Bruce Bochy went to Juan Perez for Travis Ishikawa with the four run lead. Perez bunted the runners up a base.

That is a baller move by Bochy, going to his left field defensive replacement in the fourth inning. Crawford followed Perez’s bunt with a walk to load the bases with one out for Blanco. Blanco worked a five pitch walk (ball three should have been a strike, but whatever) to bring in Belt and make it 5-0. Duffy struck out Joe Panik for the second out of the inning and Posey popped out to right to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth (another clean inning by Bamgarner) the TV crew interviewed Royals outfielder

Raul Ibanez

, at which point Tom Verducci said “Certainly not used to seeing James Shields pitch like this in the postseason.” This is, of course, demonstrably false:

Duffy returned to the hill for the fifth inning and set the Giants down in order, a marked improvement from his performance in the fourth. As un-sharp as Bumgarner was the first couple innings he really locked it down when the Giants extended the lead and set the Royals down in order again in the bottom of the fifth.

Duffy put the Giants down in order again in the sixth and some people started openly grumbling on twitter that he should be considered to start game five over Shields, given Shields’ career post-season stats embedded above. I’ll tell you right now, Ned Yost will not do that. Shields is keeping his turn in the rotation. I don’t think any other manager would replace him either.

Bumgarner set the Royals down in order in the bottom of the sixth. Hosmer lined one back to him that hit off his glove and landed in front of him. Bumgarner ran it down and fired him out at first to end the inning. If he were any other pitcher in the 2014 post season he’d have thrown that ball into right field.

Now that the game is two-thirds over, lets check out the win expectancy graph, courtesy of FanGraphs:

Win Expectancy Graph

Blanco walked to lead off the seventh against Duffy and Panik followed with a triple to the wall in right center past an awkward butt-flopping Aoki to make it 6-0 Giants. That was it for Duffy as Yost called for Tim Collins. After a Posey line out, Sandoval singled to bring in Panik and make it 7-0.

As God Bless America came on the public address system, I was reminded of Baseball and Rhetorics of Purity: The National Pastime and American Identity During the War on Terror. You should probably go read it. Bumgarner returned to the bump for the bottom of the seventh, having not allowed a hit in the previous three innings. Butler knocked a long fly ball to the track in center but to no avail as Blanco ran it down. After an Alex Gordon ground out for the second out, Sal Perez, whose playoff stats I linked earlier, knocked a home run to left to put the Royals on the board.

Collins got through the eighth without any more damage for the Royals and Javier Lopez came on to pitch the bottom half of the frame for the Giants with Kansas City running low on time. Escobar knocked a one-out single but he was erased on an Aoki double-play ground out.

Jason Frasor came on to throw the top of the ninth for the Royals. After a Posey ground out Sandoval reached on an error by Moustakas. Pence followed with a walk to put two on with one out. Belt grounded out up the middle to erase Pence at second base and put runners on the corner but Morse struck out to end the inning. Hunter Strickland came on to pitch the bottom half for the Giants with a six-run lead. Strickland struck out Cain to open the inning.

I can’t image any fan would leave a World Series game early; why would somebody do that, regardless of the score? Hosmer grounded out to second for the second out and Josh Willingham came in to pinch hit for Butler and struck out to end the game.

The game one winner has won the previous 6 series in this post season, and 10-of-the-last-11 World Series. We’ll be back tomorrow for game two.

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