Royals Beat the Giants Before the Game Began
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. Kavitha is under the weather today, so Jonathan is solo.
Jonathan Bernstein: Two ways to look at Game 3. One is that the Kansas City Royals got an excellent start from Jeremy Guthrie, and their shut-down bullpen did what it does, and that's all she wrote. Kudos to five Royals pitchers for championship-level performances.
The other way is that the awful San Francisco Giants bench was exposed for the first time. Yes, Michael Morse had a great pinch-hit double as part of the two-run sixth, but Juan Perez simply isn't a major league hitter (in 200 major league PAs he has a 261 OBP/307 SLG line), and then there's two utility infielders, neither really there for his bat. The one guy who can hit, Andrew Susac, is the backup catcher and Bruce Bochy has been reluctant to use him. And there's no left-handed hitter off the bench at all against a team that is very right-handed out of the bullpen.
That's just not good enough. At the very least, they could be carrying an extra catcher to free Susac. And, yes, there's an excuse in the injury to Angel Pagan. But still: General Manager Brian Sabean should have found another hitter for the bench. And they should be carrying one more hitter and one fewer pitcher.
Royals manager Ned Yost? He probably had his best game ever for five innings. The revamped lineup, with Alex Gordon in the second spot and a fielding-first outfield with Jarrod Dyson starting in center field, was exactly the right choice. Not only did he get rid of the excessive bunting that's been widely criticized, but he also didn't press it on the bases -- it's the Giants, once again, who gave away a valuable base runner with a caught stealing.
After that, Yost struggled -- but the bullpen bailed him out anyway. He gave away two of his final 12 outs in pitcher at-bats, and left Jeremy Guthrie in too long to boot. There's a possibility he tossed away a blowout by allowing Guthrie to lead off in the crucial sixth inning.
But his lineup choices were excellent, and the players didn't let him down, so no one is going to worry about what might have been.
The big choice going forward for Bruce Bochy is whether to stick with his rotation and start the inconsistent Ryan Vogelsong in Game 4 tonight or to rush Madison Bumgarner in on short rest. After the game, Bochy said that he's going with Vogelsong. That's exactly the kind of decision for which I'd rather trust the manager (and pitching coach Dave Righetti) than to try to second-guess; they have a better feel for what their pitchers can do than outsider can possibly get.
However, Vogelsong should be on an extremely short leash. With his ace going in Game 5 tomorrow, Bochy shouldn't hold anything back tonight. If he needs to use a long man out of the bullpen to relieve Bumgarner, the series is almost certainly lost anyway. So Yusmeiro Petit should be up and ready at the very first sign of trouble, and maybe even sooner; a 50-pitch limit on Vogelsong wouldn't be out of order here, or perhaps just different pitchers the first two times through the order.
All that said: It's easy to talk about managers, but the real story of the game was Guthrie and the Royals defense holding the Giants scoreless for five innings, and then the bullpen holding the lead. If the Giants can't find a way to score, this thing may not get back to Kansas City.
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Jonathan Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org