AT&T PARK — The Giants came into Game 4 of the World Series backed against the wall.
Saturday night, they found a crack.
San Francisco’s bats exploded against Kansas City’s touted bullpen in an 11-4 rout on a brisk, rainy evening to tie up the World Series at two games.
The Royals’ big three, or what has really become the big four — Brandon Finnegan, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland — had held the Giants to just one hit in 28 at bats and 10 strikeouts so far this series.
Kansas City’s bullpen had a collective 1.66 ERA coming into Saturday’s game and Danny Duffy had given up the only two earned bullpen runs of the series back in Game 1. The relievers this postseason relinquished little relief; they’ve been able to cut the opposition’s game short at six innings.
Royals starter Jason Vargas departed, giving the bullpen a chance to ice the threat back down.
Instead, Hunter Pence belted an RBI single up the middle, cutting the Royals’ lead to 4-3. Pablo Sandoval singled, Belt walked and Juan Perez hit a sacrifice fly — almost a single had it not been for Jerrod Dyson’s perfect catch — to bring Pence home and tie the game at 4-4.
Ned Yost sent 21-year-old Brandon Finnegan in to the sixth inning to maintain the tie. Instead, the Giants rallied with a four-hit, three-run inning to put the Giants ahead 7-4.
Joe Panik’s two doubles put two runs on the board. The rookie, as always, kept it cool under the bright, high-pressure of October baseball:
“When the moment gets big, I just tell myself to breathe. I can’t really let the game get too big. Sometimes you can try to do too much, but when that happens, you have to tell yourself to got back to the basics of what makes you you. I feel like I was able to do that tonight.”
The Giants kept rolling with four more runs against Tim Collins to give the Giants a definitive and loud 11-4 lead.
The unhittable HDH trifecta — Herrera, Davis and Holland — didn’t take the mound Saturday when the Royals couldn’t find the lead heading into the sixth. Royals manager Ned Yost said those guys won’t pitch without the lead:
“I wasn’t going to put my boys in that ballgame either down two … I was going to throw Herrera in the seventh inning with the score tied, and I would had thought long and hard about it being down one … but once they scored three in the sixth, they were out of the equation, unless we climbed back in the game.”
And that they couldn’t do, as the Giants’ relievers, this time around, put up the brick wall.
Yusmiero Petit (W, 1-0, 0.00 ERA postseason) pitched three shutout innings en route to his third postseason win. He’s pitched 12 shutout innings in the playoffs. Jean Machi, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Hunter Strickland combined for 3-1/3 shutout innings of their own.
Petit was prepared for this moment. He threw every few days in the bullpen, knowing he might have to save a World Series game:
“I tried to work like how I’m working during the season because you never know when Bochy will need you, so I’m ready for that, especially in the World Series. I’m working every day for the command for when I’m needed there, so I can throw the strikes.”
Sandoval, who snapped his 25-game postseason hitting streak yesterday, more than made up for the fall. The switch hitter was forced to hit on his weaker, right side, but rallied for two hits, including his sixth inning RBI single to score the go-ahead runs.
Bochy was pleased to see Sandoval produce batting right:
“Well, they get better as the game went. Really, he’s been swinging the bat better from the right side…I really thought he started to get a good feel from that side, and had good balance, and came through for us.”
The offensive production can’t be pinned on any one Giant. The non-stop late-inning action rolled through the lineup, said Pence, who had a three-hit night:
“Really, all of my at-bats were set up. I was put in all these great situations because everyone at the top of the order was getting on base…When it was my turn to hit and in those situations, to me, I was just trying to be as free, as convicted, and as determined as I could to compete. See the ball, hit the ball.”
The bats weren’t chained at all by the scary bullpen. Everyone in the starting lineup got at least one hit except Ryan Vogelsong.
Vogelsong, not Madison Bumgarner, despite rumors, was handed the Game 4 ball. After all, the veteran hadn’t taken a loss in the postseason since 2011 and was boasting a 1.17 ERA.
Vogelsong looked solid to start. He mixed his pitches enough to keep the raging Royals from rounding the bases for 2-1/3 innings.
With one out to go he lost his way. Vogelsong lost track of first base on an odd Eric Hosmer infield ground ball that sent Alex Gordon home safe and set a chain reaction of Royals offensive production, three more runs slipped through the cracks that inning and Vogelsong was done.
The Giants’ big comeback preserves Vogelsong’s pristine postseason record, though, and the veteran still stands at 3-0. And the Giants have yet to lose when Vogey starts in the playoffs.
Madison Bumgarner, Bochy’s ace in the hole, will take the mound Sunday night at 5:07 p.m. with the chance to push the Giants ahead in the series before everyone heads back to Kansas City.