In the last 56 World Series that began with the road team earning a 1-1 split, there has been no home-field advantage for the hosts in Game 3. They were 26-30 at the start of play on Friday, including the 2002 affair between the Giants and Angels, in which San Francisco took one of two in Anaheim, but fell in its return to AT&T Park and eventually lost in seven games.
Now, they are 26-31.
Manager Ned Yost and the Royals did not play by the National League book in Game 3. They did not steal, hit-and-run or bunt, even in a close game. They did not pinch-hit, pinch-run or make a double switch, even though their starter left with nobody out in the sixth. And yet, they prevailed by a final score of 3-2.
Here are five things you didn’t know about the game.
1. The 458th major-league start of Tim Hudson’s career marked his first time toeing the rubber in a World Series game. When he kicked and dealt to Royals leadoff man Alcides Escobar, he handed over what had been the league’s longest drought among active pitchers to the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, who is at 436.
He also handed the Royals a runner in scoring position, with a fastball that sailed high and tempted Escobar enough for the shortstop to swing at the first pitch and hammer it off the base of the left-field wall for a double. Two productive ground balls later, the Royals were up, 1-0.
2. While the Giants stuck with the same eight regulars who led them to the pennant, the Royals — stripped of designated hitter Billy Butler — made a change. Norichika Aoki rode the pine, as Yost bumped Alex Gordon up to the no. 2 spot in the order, slid Lorenzo Cain over to right field and deployed the much rangier Jarrod Dyson to cover AT&T Park’s spacious gap in right-center. Dyson, previously utilized in a pinch-runner and defensive-replacement role, hit eighth in the revised lineup.
The returns on those moves were mixed.
On the one hand, Cain’s superb defense spared visiting starter Jeremy Guthrie two early-inning hits, which might have sparked a game-tying rally. On the other, Dyson’s feeble bat in the no. 8 slot may have cost the Royals a chance to add on before Hudson settled in. As the adage goes, you can’t steal first base, and Hudson ended the second inning by getting Dyson to bounce into double play with runners at first and second to keep it a one-run game.
3. Guthrie rendered that setback moot by silencing the Giants through the fifth, but Hudson matched him batter for batter, as they combined to retire 20 in a row. Guthrie himself was the 20th out in that streak, but his sixth-inning ground out preceded an Alcides Escobar single and Alex Gordon double that made it 2-0 before Giants manager Bruce Bochy could warm up a reliever. Hudson got Cain to ground out and departed in favor of Javier Lopez, who matched wits with Eric Hosmer in what would be the biggest at-bat of the game.
The chess match between lefty specialist and lefty hitter lasted 11 pitches, and on the 11th — a full-count, get-me-over fastball that signaled Lopez would rather go after Hosmer than use an open first base to take on Mike Moustakas — the first baseman roped a single that put the Royals up by three.
They’d need that insurance tally to hold off a spirited Giants rally that chased Guthrie in the sixth and put Kelvin Herrera on the ropes. In the end, Hosmer helped Guthrie not only to get the win, but also to make history in the process.
Guthrie is the first starting pitcher to be credited with a “W” in the postseason after recording no more than 15 outs and notching zero strikeouts since the New York Giants’ Hugh McQuillan in Game 3 of the 1924 World Series. The catch: McQuillan pitched just 3 2/3 innings in that contest, so he only got the win because that game predated the five-inning requirement.
4. Yost’s plan to go from Guthrie to the “HDH” crew of Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland got derailed when Herrera walked Hunter Pence to begin the last of the seventh. The right-hander fanned Brandon Belt, but Yost opted to use lefty Brandon Finnegan with the like-handed Travis Ishikawa and Brandon Crawford due up.
In doing so, Yost made Finnegan the first pitcher in baseball history to appear in the College World Series — for Texas Christian University — and the major-league World Series in the same year. The 17th-overall pick in the June draft, Finnegan retired pinch-hitter Juan Perez on a fly ball and struck out Crawford to strand Pence at first and keep the Royals on top 3-2.
5. Davis and Holland teamed up to go six up, six down to crush any Giants’ hopes of an 11th-hour comeback. In doing so, they gave the Royals their first World Series lead in franchise history.
The Royals won the pennant in 1980, but they lost the first two games of that World Series to the Phillies and only managed to tie it before going down in six. They captured both the pennant and the world championship in 1985, but that series went the distance, and the Cardinals squandered 2-0 and 3-1 advantages.
Now, in their third trip to the Fall Classic, the Royals are up 2-1 against a Giants franchise that has lost eight straight World Series when starting with a 1-1 split.
Daniel Rathman is a writer and editor for Baseball Prospectus. He has previously been a new media intern for New England Sports Network and served as editor-in-chief of The Tufts Daily during the spring of 2012. Daniel is also a second-year urban planning student at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University and a research assistant at the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.