The San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence is hard to watch – everything he does appears goofy and almost spastic; the seeming visual incongruity of his mannerisms and his talent notwithstanding, Pence fired the first salvo of the World Series deep into the Kansas City night, possibly shaking up the Royals and earning his team a 1-0 lead in the World Series.
The Royals dispatched the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles with ease during their eight game winning streak, but these Giants have more postseason experience than both teams. The savvy of having been there before was embedded within the Giants. The Royals were game, challenging throughout but there was one obstacle that prevented the Royals from truly being in the game: Madison Bumgarner. The Giants standout pitcher had his scoreless inning streak ended in the 7th inning on Salvador Perez’s homerun, but his 21 innings of scoreless baseball to start his career is 2nd all-time to Hall of Famer and fellow Giant Christy Mathewson. Bumgarner’s excellence along with Pence’s first inning fireworks made this game anticlimactic much like Kansas City has done to most teams.
Aside from the third inning, where Kansas City loaded the bases only to cede the inning on a meek grounder to 2nd base, the Giants were in control. Gregor Blanco and Buster Posey opened the game with hits, Blanco would score and Posey would be cut down at the plate, which would bring up Pence with a runner on base (The Kung-Fu Panda Pablo Sandoval who doubled in Blanco). Pence drove the ball deep into centerfield, giving the Giants their 3-0 cushion. The lead would get padded over the next few innings, eventually growing into the 7-1 final score. The Royals didn’t play badly, their only chance was the 3rd inning, but if there’s a place to start looking it must be with their ace.
James Shields has not pitched like an ace in the postseason. He doesn’t overwhelm hitters like Bumgarner, but that’s not his style. He’s aggressive and forces hitters to put balls in play they’d rather not. The Giants are a team of hitters that seem to hit the ball where it’s pitched. This is the way to beat Shields, but looking back at the games in which he’s pitched, a pattern has emerged where Shields has given up runs but other teams’ pitching has allowed Kansas City to work back into the game – or more accurately, Shields pitches with the lead, and allows other teams to hang around. Game 1 of the World Series didn’t work out that way. The Giants claimed the lead quickly then didn’t allow the Royals an opportunity back into the game.
In Game 2 the Royals turn to Yordano Ventura, the Giants counter with veteran Jake Peavy. If Kansas City goes down 2-0 at home the scenarios for them to pull off their first World Championship since the Reagan Administration become harder to fathom, meanwhile the Giants would rest on the precipice of their third title since the Obama Administration was inaugurated in 2009.