Here is a link to my column about Game 4 of this exciting World Series. The full text runs below:
SAN FRANCISCO — By the end, the game was a rout or maybe it was an assassination.
It was absurd, actually — the Giants getting hit after hit, 16 hits in all. It’s like they were playing a high-school team instead of the Kansas City Royals, Giants runners rounding the bases, Giants runners scoring, Giants players going nuts in the dugout, the Giants winning 11-4.
But, the game didn’t start like that. Remember how it started. The Giants had lost two in a row to Kansas City. Bruce Bochy weighed the possibility of starting Madison Bumgarner — a panic move he resisted. And the Royals seemed unbeatable.
They had hit their stride in Game 2 and Game 3, and what a stride. Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson and the rest ran the Giants crazy on the bases and ran down balls in the outfield. It seemed the Royals had more than the Giants. It really did.
The Giants were good, but the Royals had something extra — especially when you factored in their late-inning relievers who are lights out. It seemed the Royals might close out the Giants in the Giants’ own ballpark and the World Series would end, from the Giants’ point of view, with a groan and a whimper.
Before Saturday’s game, the Giants’ problem was clear. What would they do now that they had fallen behind in games 2-1? Did they have the “stuff” to assert themselves, to hang tough, to come back? And did they have the stuff to come back after they fell behind on Saturday?
There was the awful sight of starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong falling apart in the third inning, of the wheels coming off for Vogelsong. He hand delivered the inning to the Royals by lousing up the most routine play, the pitcher running to first to take a throw to record an easy out. But Vogelsong misjudged the distance to the base, didn’t step on it in time. Looking at him you wanted to whack yourself in the head like one of the Three Stooges.
So, get this. The Giants gave the Royals the lead, gifted them a three-run margin, and things were grim. Really grim. But the idea that the Giants — these Giants — would go away is absurd. Always has been. We knew it was absurd. Maybe the rest of the country didn’t. The Giants are impervious to fear, can’t be discouraged when things get scary. Putting the Giants in jeopardy is like showing a starving dog a T-bone steak. The Giants start salivating when things get tough. They are not hitting with power. But in Game 4 they just kept hitting and hitting and hitting. They kept the line moving. Wouldn’t let it stop.
And they came back. They didn’t merely come back. They stormed the castle and evicted the Royals and left them lying battered under the battlements. Nothing the Giants did badly — and they did many bad things — mattered. They overcame everything and won by a collective act of will.
After Bochy yanked Vogelsong — he was so disgusted when Vogelsong didn’t step on first base he threw his cap. “I didn’t throw it,” he claimed, “but I did hit the dugout with it. Occasionally I do show emotion in that dugout.” Well, after Bochy relieved Vogelsong and after he brought in Yusmeiro Petit, finally, the Giants found solid ground. Found themselves.
You would have to say Giants’ heroes from this game include Gregor Blanco and Joie Panik and Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval. But most of all, Petit, who is the Giants’ secret weapon, who is as good as any pitcher on the club except for Bumgarner, qualifies as the game’s hero. It is a pleasure to watch him work. An honor. He pitched three innings and gave up no runs on two hits. And he ended the Royals’ momentum and stabilized things for the Giants.
He is amazing to look at with that bushy black beard but no mustache. He looks like a scholar of Ancient Greek. Or maybe a surrealist painter. It’s a good look and implies he is an artist, a craftsman and an intellectual.
He does not throw hard. He’d be challenged to throw 90 mph, usually tops out at 88. But he moves the ball around, and he moves it up and down, and he changes speed — not that he throws with speed. His out pitches are the curve and fastball, not that the fastball is all that fast. And he makes batters guess and he beats them down, and then he just beats them. That’s what he did to the Royals.
Here’s Bochy on Petit. “Seems to calm things down the way he goes about his business. He gave us exactly what we needed. He held them there. He gave us a chance to come back. A well-deserved win for him.”
So where does this series stand? Bumgarner pitches against James Shields tonight. Game 5. It is the pitching matchup of Game 1. It is a marvelous matchup. We know how superb Bumgarner is in the postseason. We know Shields has been disappointing in the postseason. But we know he is a fine pitcher, a quality pitcher. This game could be a classic.
The Giants, to their everlasting credit, have earned the trip back to Kansas City — it was difficult to earn. It feels like this series will go seven games. It feels like these teams will squeeze every ounce of drama and anguish out of these games. And why not, who wants this to end?
Or as Royals manager Ned Yost said after his team got murdered, “Oh, man, somewhere inside of me, secretly, I had hoped that it would go seven games for the excitement and the thrill of it. Sure looks that way.”
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn firstname.lastname@example.org.