By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor, The Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The Kansas City Royals came to San Francisco with one goal in mind. Get the series back to Kauffman Stadium.
Kansas City jumped out to a three-run lead, then its filthy bullpen did the rest, as it held on for a 3-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Friday at AT&T Park.
Now trailing two games to one, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy had a choice to make. Would he go with Madison Bumgarner on Saturday in Game 4, or would he stay with Ryan Vogelsong and save his ace for a potential season-saving situation on Sunday?
Following Friday’s loss Bochy said he would stick with Vogelsong. Earlier in the day he had said he had given Bumgarner some thought, and don’t be fooled, he still may after a night’s sleep.
Bumgarner has established himself as the best postseason pitcher in the game in these playoffs and made the Royals look foolish in Game 1. If he were to get the call, he’d be going on three-days’ rest, though, something he’s never done in his career.
Plus if Bochy were to go that route, he could go to Bumgarner in a Game 7, albeit again on short rest. Remember, though, teams who use a starter on short rest are 52-64 in the 116 instances since the playoffs were expanded after the wild card was added in 1995.
Bumgarner, though, is already at 256 innings. That’s a heavy workload for a 25-year-old arm. He might not have two starts left in him.
It may be tempting to go back to him, but Bochy is making the right move. Say Bumgarner were to go on Saturday and, gulp, lose. Now you have Vogelsong on the hill to save your season.
I’d take my chances with Vogelsong in Game 4, and if he loses so be it. I still have my horse waiting on full rest in Game 5.
If Vogelsong struggles early, Bochy still has Yusmeiro Petit there in the bullpen. Outside of the Royals historic group, Petit has been the best reliever this postseason, throwing nine scoreless innings.
Now here is where it gets interesting. There is rain in the forecast for Saturday. Maybe Mother Nature will do the Giants a favor and the game will get postponed.
And If that happens, there is no debate. Bumgarner would get the ball in Game 4.
YOST MAKING ALL THE RIGHT MOVES
Say what you want about Royals manager Ned Yost, but he has a tremendous feel for that bullpen which very well could be the best of all-time.
Yost, though, left himself open for even more criticism when he pulled lefty Kelvin Herrera for another southpaw in rookie Brandon Finnegan after he had just let Herrera hit for himself in the Royals’ half of the seventh.
Finnegan, who just a few months ago was playing for Texas Christian University in the College World Series, made his manager look smart, though, as he retired the only two batters he faced.
Kansas City’s bullpen has made Yost look smart all year and that was the case again on Friday, as Herrera, Finnegan, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined to throw four no-hit innings of relief.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
The Royals bullpen has been the story of these playoffs, as the group has combined to go a perfect 7-0, while compiling an ERA of 1.66 (nine earned runs in 48.2 innings pitched).
Also, Holland’s seventh save in the postseason tied a single-season mark that is shared by John Wetteland (1996), Troy Percival (2002, Angels), Robb Nen (2002, Giants), Brad Lidge (2008, Phillies) and Koji Uehara (2013, Red Sox).
GAME 3 WINNERS
The team that has won Game 3 in a World Series that started 1-1 has won four of the last five and 11 of the last 13 Series.
However, the team leading 2-1 is just 42-42 in Game 4.
This is the ninth time San Francisco has been down 2-1. In those instances, San Francisco has won Game 4 four times, including four of the last five occurrences, and they have gone on to win the series just once (1921 vs. NYY)
Kansas City, meanwhile, will take the field on Saturday with a World Series lead for the first time in franchise history.
LOOKING AHEAD TO GAME 4
So, as it stands now the Giants will hand the ball on Saturday to Vogelsong, who has been as good as any pitcher in the postseason in recent history.
Well, except for the last time he pitched.
Vogelsong only lasted three innings of his NLCS start against the St. Louis Cardinals and was roughed up to the tune of four runs and seven hits. Still, the Giants were able to get a win in that one and Vogelsong remained a perfect 3-0 in six postseason starts, but did see his ERA spike to 2.16.
He had been the only starting pitcher in MLB to allow one run or fewer in each of his first five career postseason starts (since 1903). The Giants have won all six of his postseason starts.
The 37-year-old hurler, though, hasn’t actually won since beating Milwaukee back on Aug. 29.
Kansas City, meanwhile, will try to go up, 3-1, behind left-hander Jason Vargas, who has been terrific this postseason for the Royals. Vargas pitched KC into the World Series with a win over Baltimore in the ALCS, as he allowed just a run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings.
He had given up two runs and three hits in six innings of his ALDS start versus the Angels.
It’s been quite a turnaround for Vargas, who lost 18 runs over his final four regular season starts and lost five of his final six decisions.