Everything was looking good for us Royals fans (the number of which has coincidentally doubled over the past month) on Saturday night.
After winning Game 3 on Friday to take a 2–1 series lead, the Royals held a 4–2 lead heading into the fifth inning in Game 4 when the wheels fell off. The Giants scored two in the fifth, three in the sixth, and four in the seventh to clobber Kansas City 11–4.
Then Madison Bumgarner happened in Game 5 and suddenly the Royals are down 3–2, needing to win both Games 6 and 7 to make my all-important series prediction come true. But they still can. Here’s how:
1. Hope Bumgarner is ineffective on two days’ rest.
Bumgarner should be World Series MVP, even if the Royals come back to win the series. The 25-year-old lefty threw the first shutout in the Fall Classic since Florida’s Josh Beckett blanked the Yankees at Yankee Stadium way back in 2003.
The win moved Bumgarner to 2–0 with a 0.56 ERA in two World Series starts this season and also put him at 4–1 with a 1.13 ERA in six postseason starts in 2014.
He may not be done, either, as there remains a possibility that he could come on in relief in Wednesday’s Game 7—if necessary.
Bumgarner has pitched only once on two days’ rest—four years ago in the NLCS against the Phillies. He pitched a pair of scoreless innings in a win, though he hadn’t made it out of the fifth in his previous start.
Either way, the Royals want nothing to do with him the rest of the way.
2. Get aggressive on the bases and don’t look back.
Much was made about the Royals and their speed heading into the series—and for good reason, as they stole 153 bases in 162 games this year to lead the majors. But they have just one stolen base in two attempts in the World Series.
Granted, stealing in either of the games against Bumgarner was near impossible given that he allowed so few base-runners and his pickoff move to first is one of the best in the game.
The Royals need to get back to the mentality that started in the Wild Card game against Oakland. They threw caution to the wind and swiped seven bases in that one, wild 9–8 win.
Part of it was the byproduct of being the underdog that no one took seriously—their backs were against the wall and they had nothing to lose. They’re back in the same spot now.
3. More power from Moustakas and Hosmer.
Mike Moustakas had four home runs in eight postseason games heading into the World Series. He’s cooled off to the tune of none in five against the Giants, managing just a .188 average in the series.
Hosmer was hitting a sizzling .448 through the first three rounds before running into the Giants’ pitchers. He’s hitting a lukewarm .263 average, but with just one extra-base hit in five games.
The Royals have averaged just three runs per game through the first five games of this set, and that number is probably not going to get any better as long as those two left-handed-hitting corner infielders aren’t producing. But they’ll have their opportunities against righties Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson in Kansas City and will need to capitalize on them.
4. Jump on Jake Peavy in Game 6.
Speaking of Peavy, the 33-year-old former Cy Young winner is probably the weakest link in San Francisco’s playoff rotation. Not that Peavy isn’t still a good pitcher—he recorded a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts with the Giants after coming over from Boston this summer.
His problem has always been the postseason, though. While his career ERA in the regular season is a very respectable 3.53, it jumps to a staggering 7.05 in 37 total playoff innings. The Royals are familiar with him from his time with the White Sox.
A win in Game 6 should set up a raucous home crowd advantage for the Royals in Game 7.