Tim Collins, funky dancer.

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Nail-Biter Finish to a Blowout 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.

Kavitha A. Davidson: Well, nobody saw that coming. 

The tepid Royals bats exploded for seven runs in a second inning that took more than 33 minutes and all but put this game away. Final score, 10-0. Mind you, Kansas City had scored seven runs in the previous three games combined. It was a weird inning that featured more than one well-placed blooper and a chopper in that launchpad that is the dirt in front of home plate at Kauffman Stadium. We also saw something the Royals had failed to show us of late: clutch hitting. In that one inning, Kansas City was 6-of-9 with runners in scoring position, including five straight hits with two strikes.

San Francisco Giants starter Jake Peavy was chased after just four outs, ultimately tagged for five runs, while reliever Yusmeiro Petit finally came back down to earth. You can’t really second-guess manager Bruce Bochy for leaving Peavy in there so long, despite his abysmal career numbers at the K. Mike Moustakas’ double was barely fair, and Brandon Belt botched Alicedes Escobar’s infield single with the infield in. Peavy left the bases loaded, down 2-0 with one out, yet few balls had really been hit all that hard.

It’s easy to say the Royals won the game right then and there in that second inning. So I’m going to say that what really sealed the deal was the top of the third. Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura walked the bases loaded with one out, and it looked like a rally could be afoot. But then Buster Posey swung on the first pitch and grounded into a double play to end the inning and any hopes of a San Francisco comeback. It was the perfect microcosm of Ventura’s seven-inning start: a little wild, a lot of heat, and zero runs scored.

Jonathan Bernstein: Yeah. I had a lot of hopes and fears going in, but I certainly didn’t expect to be mostly over the moping-about-a-loss stage … by around the eighth inning. Ugh. 

I agree about that Posey at-bat. A double in the gap there and it’s a 7-3 game with still only one out in the third, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence coming to the plate, the Royals bullpen up, and the whole game changes. Even a long fly out and the game gets at least a little interesting. Instead, three outs, and it’s all over.

Before the game, I was annoyed by Fox Sports's canned comparison between this World Series and the 1985 edition: both, we were told several times, featured Royals teams that had scored exactly 15 runs. What they neglected to mention was that the Royals actually outscored the Cardinals in the first five games in 1985, while this year the Giants had a lopsided edge. No more. After six games, the combined score is Giants 27, Royals 25.

Weirdly, despite the two teams playing a very even series, we’ve seen only one close game. Game 3 was a one-run affair, but the other five have all been decided by five or more. I’d be shocked if that’s ever happened before. The last full-length World Series, in 2011, had three one-run games and only one blowout. The unhappy 2002 seven-gamer featured four one-run games and two blowouts. Five out of six is weird.

So: What are we in store for tonight?

KAD: That's a great point about lopsided scoring -- though I will say that except for Games 1 and 6, these games have been fairly close (within two runs or less) into the sixth inning.

Heading into Game 7, I think it's important for everyone involved to just forget what we saw last night. Expect a close game with all hands on deck; for the Giants that means the potential for Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum in long-relief outings should starter Tim Hudson falter, which should scare the pants off of Royals fans.

The most significant impact Game 6 will have is that all of Kansas City's Big Three relievers are well rested and ready to go for two innings as needed, easing some of the pressure on starter Jeremy Guthrie. In Hudson versus Guthrie, we have two veterans pitching in their first World Series, let alone first championship game. Both pitched well in last Friday's Game 3, with the decisive runs being scored in the sixth. As we said heading into this series, the bullpens could decide the next MLB champion.

This would also be a great time for Posey to break out of his slump. He's batting .182 in the series and has one hit in his last six at-bats.

JB: Good points. The Giants bullpen is pretty well rested too, or at least the short relievers are. One worry I have: everyone is assuming Bumgarner is automatic. I hope so, and he might be, but it’s not as if relieving on short rest is something he has a lot of experience with. There’s even more of a tendency in the World Series to draw conclusions (and make predictions) from little evidence than there is the rest of the time.

Of course, the inability to really project is part of what makes it great sports, too.

As a Giants fan, I really do like the Hudson-Guthrie match up, although looking at the numbers, regular season and postseason, there’s really nothing to separate them. Still, whether it makes sense or not, I’d rather have a once-great, now-good pitcher rather than a just-plain-good pitcher.

I’ve tried to stay away from bashing the Fox announcers, but I do have one suggestion. I expect we’ll hear a fair bit about the excellent run both teams have had in elimination games; we may also hear more about how the Royals won the seventh game in 1985, while the Giants World Series record in seventh games is … not something I want to think about today.

What I’d suggest to the announcers is that it’s totally fine to talk about all of that, but not in terms of the players -- what George Brett and Brett Saberhagen did in 1985, not to mention what Walter Johnson and that pebble did to the Giants in 1924, doesn’t have anything to do with what Posey and Pence, Alex Gordon and Wade Davis, and the rest of them will do tonight. No, if they want to talk about it, they should make it clear that it’s what the fans bring to these games. Because we surely do.

Is it time for “Play Ball!” yet?

(Corrects name of Royals player who hit a second-inning infield single in fifth paragraph.)

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