8:07 PM EST, FOX – Line: Kansas City -132
In a World Series that has been so evenly matched, it’s poetic justice that tonight’s Game Seven will decide things, as the Kansas City Royals host the San Francisco Giants one last time at Kauffman Stadium for all the marbles. San Francisco (88-74) had to put their miraculous dynasty on hold for one more night, and are now in danger of it falling through as they were completely dominated Tuesday Night in a 10-0 debacle. Indeed, there was little sense of urgency in Bruce Bochy’s side last night, as they managed a mere six hits scattered across nine innings, while their pitching staff was worked for a total of ten runs on fifteen hits. Starting Pitcher Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.12 ERA) was rocked early for five runs on six hits, and was forced to take his leave after just one out in the Second Inning, succeeded by Yusmeiro Petit (0 Saves, 3.69 ERA) and Jean Machi (2 Saves, 2.58 ERA), who collectively allowed four more runs on eight hits over the following 3.2 innings. It was just an all-around forgettable performance for a franchise that will be trying to win their third World Series Championship in the last five years, but now they will be fighting the tide of recent history; since the World Series went to a 2-3-2 format, the team that has held a 3-2 lead looking to clinch on the road in either Game Six or Seven has gone on to meet defeat in eight of the last ten instances.
In the face of such daunting history, Bochy will once again turn to another grizzled veteran, as Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA) heads to the mound for the biggest game of his life. Granted, the 39-year old right-hander will have to last longer than his teammate Peavy did, who was KO’d early in the Second Inning of last night’s drubbing. Previously, Hudson took the loss in starting Game Three’s narrow 3-2 defeat, yet pitched well in 5.2 innings of work, allowing all three runs on four hits, with a pair of strikeouts and a walk. The sixteenth-year veteran has plenty of Playoff experience, making thirteen appearances (twelve starts), while posting a 3.53 ERA despite a 1-4 record. In this postseason alone, Hudson has relinquished eight runs on eighteen hits over the course of 19.1 innings of labor, racking up fifteen strikeouts to just one walk, ultimately earning an 0-1 resume’. However, if he can indeed hold the Royals off for at least five innings, then Bochy can call upon Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA), who has been the very definition of dominant in these Playoffs. While it’s tempting to start the young ace from the jump, Bumgarner has already logged 38.2 innings thus far, the second-highest figure in a single postseason behind Curt Schilling’s manifesto in 2001. Furthermore, he just threw 117 pitches on Sunday Night, making it highly unlikely that the 24-year old could pitch more than three or four innings on a mere three days rest. With that said, any Bumgarner in any capacity is bad news for the Royals, who have flat-lined against the lefty thus far; in his two starts in this World Series, Kansas City was relegated to one lone run on seven hits over sixteen innings, striking out thirteen times, while walking just once in a pair of losses. And at this point, we may have to change this kid’s nickname to “Big Game” Bumgarner, for even at such a tender age, he has already made four starts over three different World Series, owning a perfect 4-0 record with a history-making 0.29 ERA, 0.548 WHIP, and 27 strikeouts to five walks over 31.0 innings. Respect.
Meanwhile, the magical ride that the Royals (89-73) have been on in this October will come to it’s conclusion one way or another tonight, as they look to win their first World Series Championship since 1985. There is a poetic sense of deja vu at play here, for thirty years ago this franchise found themselves in this very same position; trailing the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two and heading back home, Kansas City staved off elimination in Game Six on the strength of Charlie Leibrandt’s brilliant four-hit, one-run performance, followed by World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen’s masterful five-hit, Complete Game Shutout in Game Seven. Fast forward to 2014, and the table is set for history to repeat itself; after paying tribute to his fallen friend Oscar Tavares, the young Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20 ERA) pitched beyond his years, relinquishing just three hits and no runs, with four strikeouts and five walks, before taking his leave in the Seventh Inning as his team held a ten-run lead. The 23-year old Rookie received a wealth of run support as the hosts exploded for fifteen hits en route to ten runs in the 1-0 victory; Ned Yost’s club scored six runs alone in the Second Inning, with Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler all tagging RBI-Doubles, while Moustakas dropped the curtain in the Seventh with a 391-foot home run to Right-Center Field. On the night, the top of the order went eight-for-twenty, accounting for five doubles, a homer, and ten RBIs.
So with one game to decide this Fall Classic, Yost will hand the ball to Jeremy Guthrie (13-11, 4.13 ERA), who pitched very well in Game Three. The 35-year old journeyman is as unlikely a starter in such a huge game, but has proven his mettle throughout his first expedition into the postseason; Guthrie is 1-0 in two starts in these Playoffs, owning a solid 2.70 ERA, yielding three runs on seven hits over the course of ten innings. In Game Three, he tossed a strong five innings, allowing a pair of runs on four hits, despite not recording a strikeout or walk in the 3-2 Royals’ victory. That’s likely all his team will need from him tonight, as he will attempt to get his compatriots in the Bullpen the ball with a lead, in which they’ve been as dominant as any in recent memory. In the form of HDH, the triumvirate of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland, Yost has in essence three Closers he can turn to that can shut down the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Innings, and now enters Game Seven without throwing a single pitch in last night’s victory. Herrera (4-3, 1.41 ERA) posted a 1.143 WHIP and 7.6 Strikeout/Nine Innings Ratio during the Regular Season, while Davis (9-2, 1.00 ERA) averaged a whopping 13.6 Strikeouts per Nine Innings, while Holland (1-3, 1.44 ERA) racked 13.0 Strikeouts per Nine Innings of his own, while leading the team with 46 Saves. However, during the postseason, these guys have made a claim that they should earn a collective MVP award; Herrera, Davis, and Holland have gone 3-0 with a 1.58 ERA in these Playoffs, yielding just six runs on nineteen hits over 34.2 innings, totaling 42 strikeouts to fourteen walks, with Holland recording all seven Saves. However, Yost won’t turn to them too early, making it imperative that Guthrie doesn’t falter early, lest a repeat of Game Four’s debacle take place where the Giants scored five runs over the Fifth and Sixth Innings to rally from a three-run deficit, before the Royals ever reach the Seventh to take advantage of the HDH Machine.