Ouch, Kansas City.

Photographer: Elsa/Getty Images

No Yosting, Giants Coasting in World Series

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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During the 2014 World Series, Bloomberg View columnists Jonathan Bernstein and Kavitha A. Davidson will discuss, debate and dissect the happenings on and off the  diamond.

Jonathan Bernstein: To get the obvious out of the way: For those of us who are Giants fans, we couldn’t have asked for a better game. The old slogan from 2010 was that Giants baseball was torture. None of that last night.

That said … one of the great things about sports in general, and baseball in particular, is how impossible it is to predict. We’ve been hearing all about the Royals awesome outfield defense and disruptive base stealing, but neither was a factor. Nor, Kavitha, were those bullpens you (quite reasonably) talked about this afternoon. Turned out that the thing to hype the most would have been Madison Bumgarner’s freakish postseason road success … not all that hard to predict, but who knows whether it continues or not?

I’ll give you one of those pitches that James Shields was serving up in the first inning: What’s your takeaway from game one?

Kavitha A. Davidson: My biggest takeaway is that we’ve got to stop referring to “Big Game James” unless we’re talking about James Worthy. James Shields now has a 5.74 ERA in 10 career playoff starts and a 7.11 ERA in his four starts this postseason. He gave up three runs before Kansas City saw a single at bat, and was charged with five while pitching into the fourth.

That said, the Royals’ offense had a chance to jump right back in this game and blew it. With the bases loaded and trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the third, Kansas City failed to get a run across, and you could just feel the air being let out of the stadium. This might have been the time for some of that small-ball the low-power Royals are known for, but we’ll never know, thanks to back-to-back strikeouts with runners in scoring position.

And after a walk to load the bases with two outs, Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer grounded out on the first pitch he saw. Not to take anything away from Bumgarner, who absolutely lived up to his postseason reputation, but the Royals exhibited little patience at the plate, evidenced by the single walk they drew all night, and it cost them dearly.

JB: Fair enough, although I’ll note that Bumgarner has now walked six in his five postseason starts this year and had a very nice 1.8 walks per 9 innings pitched during the season. He’s not easy to wait out.

Let’s talk managers. I loved that Bruce Bochy sent defensive replacement Juan Perez up to bunt for National League Championship Series hero Travis Ishikawa in the fourth inning, with the Giants up 4-0. It never turned out to matter, but it was good to switch from offense to defense early in the game. Good, too, to give Hunter Strickland a low-pressure inning to get his game back together. Stickland isn’t likely to get high-leverage innings unless a game goes long, but if he’s worth having on the roster, he’s worth preparing for whatever might come.

Bochy wasn’t sentimental with Ishikawa, but it’s worth mentioning that he is being sentimental with Tim Lincecum. He hasn’t been used yet, even in a series with an 18-inning game; the scenario in which he’s used is as long man after a game in which Yusmeiro Petit is needed to throw several innings. In other words, it would take either two games with either early exits from starters or extended extra innings. It could happen … but the chances are small. And the roster spot really could be useful for a team with a weak bench. Bochy has been ruthless in the past (such as benching Pablo Sandoval in 2010), but this sure seems like sentiment to me.

I didn’t really have any complaints about the much-maligned Ned Yost in this one. You?

KAD: Just as the Royals’ bullpen didn’t really have a chance to shine, Yost didn’t either. By the same token, he didn’t have an opportunity to live up to his reputation for #Yosting. Kansas City didn’t have enough baserunners to question a decision to bunt, nor was the game close enough to question Yost’s bullpen choices overall.

Heading into Game 2, what Yost really needs to manage is his clubhouse. Whether it was playoff jitters or rust from the absurdly long break between the championship series and the World Series, the Royals looked tentative in the field and anything but at the plate. It’s up to Yost to settle down  his young team and get them back to the patient hitting and audacious defense that got them this far.

But it all begins with starting pitching, so Yost’s biggest job heading into Game 2 is calming the nerves of 23-year-old rookie Yordano Ventura. The Royals need their hard-throwing hurler to shut down the Giants early. Ventura and his blistering fastball have been solid all season, but he did depart his previous start with shoulder tightness. That was Game 2 of the ALCS way back on Oct. 11, so lets hope the extra rest will have helped him return to form.

The Giants will send out Jake Peavy, and this is exactly the situation the Giants envisioned when they traded for him back in July. He’s got World Series experience, having pitched for the champion Boston Red Sox last season, but he’s had trouble pitching against the Royals and particularly at Kauffman Stadium.

I’m not a believer in mystique or aura or destiny, but I am a believer in momentum in the postseason. The Royals need to jump on Peavy early and swing the needle back in their favor if they hope to get back in this series.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the authors on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net
Kavitha A. Davidson at kdavidson19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net