8:07 PM EST, FOX – Line: Kansas City -111
Heading into Game One of the 2014 World Series, the major difference between it’s two participants was experience, as the San Francisco Giants had advanced to their third World Series in five years, while the Kansas City Royals are simply enjoying thirst voyage into the postseason since 1985. So after on meeting in this best-of-seven series the early edge must go to experience, as the Giants stormed into a raucous Kauffman Stadium and issued a 7-1 beatdown. This is becoming something of a habit for San Francisco (88-74), who has now gone on to steal home field advantage in each of the previous three rounds of the Playoffs, including the National League Wild Card Playoff. And wouldn’t you know it, but they used the same formula for success Tuesday Night: patient, timely hitting coupled with outstanding pitching. Fresh off of a pair of stellar performances in the NLCS that saw him earn MVP honors, Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA) was the easy choice to set the tone in Game One, just as he had in the Wild Card Playoff and the Championship Series. The young left-hander dominated the Royals, allowing one run on three hits over seven inning of labor, with five strikeouts and one walk. In fact, that lone run yielded in the Seventh Inning snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak in the World Series, dating back to his first appearance back in 2010, ranking second all-time, and easily the longest such streak over the last 40 years. With that said, he received plenty of help, as Bruce Bochy’s lineup battered Kansas City early and often, giving Bumgarner quite the cushion with which to work with. A Pablo Sandoval RBI-double got things started in the First Inning, followed shortly by a two-run Hunter Pence home run to open the lead to 3-0. Then, in the Fourth Stanza, Designated Hitter Michael Morse singled to Right, allowing Pence to score, with Brandon Belt trotting home via a bases loaded walk three batters later to stretch the lead to 5-0. Finally, Rookie Joe Panik smashed an RBI-triple into deep Right, only to cross home plate shortly thereafter courtesy of Sandoval’s single to Left. All in all, San Francisco scattered ten hits on the night with eight different batters registering one on their way to a one-game lead. And just how significant is that, you ask? The team that has won Game One has gone on to win the World Series on ten out of the last eleven occasions, including each of the past four.
Looking to keep the ball rolling as his team attempts to take a commanding two-game lead in this World Series is Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA), whom will be gunning for his first victory in the Fall Classic. The twelve-year veteran began this season as a member of the Red Sox, where he along with the rest of the team struggled mightily, compiling a dismal 1-9 record with a 4.72 ERA through 20 starts, before being offloaded to San Francisco shortly before the Trade Deadline. Back in the National League, the right-hander was reborn, amassing a 6-4 record and 2.17 ERA in a dozen starts, logging 58 strikeouts and a solid 1.04 ERA. In fact, Peavy was absolutely integral down the stretch, as the Giants went on to win in eight out of his final nine starts, including each of the last six. The 32-year old lasted 5.2 innings in Game One of the NLDS against top-seeded Nationals, yielding no runs on a pair of hits, with three strikeouts and three walks in the 3-2 victory, the first of his postseason career. Again, he issued another strong performance in the NLCS against St. Louis, allowing two runs on as many hits in four innings of work, earning a no-decision in the 5-4 loss. As for World Series experience, Peavy pitched Game Three of last year’s World Series for Boston, in another no-decision in which he struck out four Cardinals and allowed just two runs on six hits in four innings of what would be another 5-4 defeat. Making tonight’s matchup all the more interesting is the fact that Peavy is rather familiar with the Royals; in his four-and-a-half seasons in the American League, he faced Kansas City fourteen times, yet struggled with a 4.97 ERA, allowing 95 hits, ten home runs, and 20 walks, en route to a 5-7 record. Furthermore, his 1.380 WHIP is the second-highest against any team he’s encountered. But we’re not done yet, folks; in seven starts at Kauffman Stadium, he is just 1-5 with a bloated 6.42 ERA, a 1.697 WHIP, and has served up eight home runs. Granted, the majority of those starts came as member of the White Sox, but one thing is for certain, Peavy will be fighting the tide of his own personal history tonight.
Meanwhile, after a Major League Record eight-game winning streak to start the postseason, the Royals (79-83) are left scrambling after getting blown out in Game One of the World Series at Kauffman Stadium. From the word go, Ned Yost’s young charges looked shaken, as if they didn’t quite comprehend the stage in which they were competing on. Even with James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA) on the mound, a veteran arm with a wealth of postseason experience, they could manage very little to stave off the vetted Giants, who trounced them 7-1 in the Opener. Shields, making his fourth start of these Playoffs, was battered early, allowing five runs on seven hits over just three innings, including a two-run home run in the First. He totaled 72 pitches before taking his leave early in the Fourth, replaced by Danny Duffy, who would walk in a run later in the stanza. With that said, it’s not as if any of Kansas City’s pitchers received much help from the plate, as Yost’s lineup could muster just one run on four hits. After experiencing a postseason-long offensive explosion, the meek-hitting Royals regressed to the team the hit the fewest homers (95) during the Regular Season. Granted, Salvador Perez finally put them on the board with a solo shot in the Seventh Inning, but at that point it simply became a case of far too little too late. The Batting Order was just 4-for-30 Monday Night, with seven strikeouts and just one walk. And that right there is the key to their success, ladies and gentlemen; despite the lack of power, Kansas City ranked second in the American League in Batting Average (.263) and led the Majors in Stolen Bases (153), while striking out the least (985). In other words, they’re very good at getting on base, where they wreck havoc on base paths. However, if they can’t get on base to manufacture runs, then they’re hurting for offense. That could be a huge problem against San Francisco’s superior stable of pitchers.
With the short turnaround from last night, Yost looks to be taking a calculated risk by turning to the young Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20 ERA), who will attempt to square the Series away at one game apiece before heading out to AT&T Park Friday Night. Kansas City rode their young prospect over the course of the second half of the campaign, winning in thirteen of his final sixteen starts. The 23-year old Rookie will be searching for the first postseason victory of his career, after starting one game in the ALDS and ALCS, and providing relief work against the Orioles in the clinching Game Four. In three appearances throughout these playoffs (two starts), the hard-throwing right-hander has performed as one would expect; Ventura has posted a 4.85 ERA in thirteen innings of action, allowing seven runs on twelve hits, including a pair of home runs, while racking up eight strikeouts and issuing four walks, with a WHIP of 1.231. It should be interesting to see how the young hurler matches up with the Giants’ meticulous lineup, for like most young pitchers early int heir careers, Ventura relies heavily on his Fastball. Ventura’s preferred pitch clocked in at an average 96.8 MPH during the Regular Season, highest among qualified starters, while allowing a .389 Slugging Percentage on at-bats that ended with his Fastball in the middle of the Strike Zone, the fifth-lowest figure in the league. However, San Francisco has enjoyed a good deal of success against pitchers who throw at least 95.0 MPH, batting a solid .271, which is best in the National League. If Ventura struggles in the same vein as Shields, Yost will have to turn to his Bullpen, which has been damn near dominant in these Playoffs; leading into the World Series, the Royals’ Relievers had posted a 6-0 record in eight games, accumulating seven saves, while relinquishing seven runs on 20 hits over 34.0 innings of labor, with 36 strikeouts. Greg Holland (46 Saves, 1.44 ERA) has been particularly stellar of late in the Closer’s role, owning a 1.13 ERA with six saves and a 1.000 WHIP in October.