It seemed inevitable the moment we knew the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals would meet in the World Series. Now it's a reality. With the Royals' 10-0 victory in Game 6, one of the most exciting single games possible in sports is set up for Wednesday night in Kansas City: Game 7 of the World Series.
It has been a rare event recently. This will be the first World Series Game 7 since 2011, and only the second since 2002. Yet it felt inevitable because the two teams involved were playing so well coming in. The Giants entered winners of nine straight postseason series dating back to 2010, including this season's NL wild-card game. The Royals set an MLB record winning their first eight postseason games, sweeping through the AL wild-card game, ALDS and ALCS.
Whether you believe in momentum in baseball or not, it was difficult to dismiss what both teams had established. It was just as difficult to imagine either losing four games. On Wednesday, one of them will, and that team will have come as close to winning a World Series as possible without actually crossing the finish line.
Tim Hudson, 39, will get the start for San Francisco, making him the oldest pitcher to start a World Series Game 7. He took the loss in Game 3, his World Series debut, after allowing three runs in five and two-thirds innings. He'll be opposed by Jeremy Guthrie, who won Game 3 by allowing two runs in five innings.
They're the starting pitchers, but unless they're great or terrible, they'll likely be footnotes in an all-hands-on-deck, winner-take-all Game 7. There are so many ins and outs that go into these games, because there are more options available to the managers. And even with all of the strategy involved, it's just as likely a bad bounce will decide it as a good decision or superstar performance.
With that in mind, though, we're still digging a little deeper to uncover potential keys that could lay the groundwork for a Game 7 victory.
Three keys for the San Francisco Giants
The availability of Madison Bumgarner
Games 1 and 5 starter Madison Bumgarner was reportedly available if needed to record a critical out in Game 6. He wasn't needed, which means his availability could expand to an inning or two in Game 7. Bumgarner has far and away been the most dominant starting pitcher during the postseason, posting a 1.13 in 47 2/3 innings. He's 2-0 against Kansas City in the World Series with a 0.56 ERA. Perhaps more important than that, he has experience throwing in relief during the postseason. He pitched two scoreless innings in Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS. He's a lethal Game 7 weapon.
A more composed start
According to Bruce Bochy, the only good thing about the Game 6 blowout is having an opportunity to wash it off in Game 7. Among the issues Tuesday were sloppiness on defense, particularly in the second inning, and several missed opportunities offensively that would have closed the gap. Obviously, cleaning up the defense is vital. However, not allowing that first scoring opportunity to slip away may be just as important. San Francisco isn't an easy team to rattle, but the sooner it can wash that stink off, the better.
Contain Alcides Escobar
Escobar ambushed Tim Hudson in Game 3 with a first-pitch double and later scored the game's first run. He later added a single, and scored the game's second run, giving him seven hits in 14 career at-bats against the Giants starter. It's a battle Hudson needs to win on Wednesday. If Escobar is on base, it gives Kansas City an opportunity to be aggressive and create a quick scoring chance.
Three keys for the Kansas City Royals
Lockdown relievers Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis were both touched up in Game 5, but along with closer Greg Holland weren't needed in Game 6. The rest will do them some good, especially in Herrera's case. He has tossed 9 2/3 innings over seven outings since ALCS Game 1 on Oct.10. Holland hasn't pitched since closing World Series Game 3. All three will be rested and perhaps ready to throw two innings each if needed.
Break out the running game
One stolen base on two attempts is all we've seen from the Royals' running game during the World Series. Game flow has had a lot to do with that. The watered down track in San Francisco seemingly had little effect. But if there was ever a game for the 2014 Royals to return to their roots, Game 7 is it. Giants starter Tim Hudson has allowed 22 steals in 26 attempts over the last two seasons.
Recent history is certainly on the Royals' side on Wednesday night. In the last nine World Series Game 7s, the home team has won each time. That includes the 1985 Royals squad, who won both Games 6 and 7 at home against the St. Louis Cardinals to notch their only championship. Looking even deeper, three of the last five Game 7 winners have done so in walkoff fashion. It's a difficult circumstance for the visiting team to get the final three World Series outs on the road. Ned Yost's main focus should be keeping the game close at any cost so his team stays within striking distance.
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