Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Game 1 World Series Preview

Kansas City, with its couple hundred fountains and seemingly equal number of BBQ joints, is about to take its place as the epicenter of the baseball world tonight when -- after a wait of 28 years, 11 months and 25 days -- the World Series returns to Kauffman Stadium.

Six days after celebrating an American League pennant in front of their own fans by dispatching the Orioles, the Royals will host the Giants in the first World Series matchup between the clubs. First pitch in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. ET. Pregame coverage on FOX begins at 7:30 p.m.

It is a Fall Classic matchup bubbling with intrigue, one that will feature newbies to this postseason stage against the every-other-year World Series regulars of late. The Giants, who defeated the Cardinals in a five-game National League Championship Series, returned to Missouri having won each of their last eight postseason series. In between, they've raised two World Series banners (2010, '12).

The Royals are riding their own streak, undefeated in their first eight postseason games, something never before accomplished. Their 11-game postseason winning streak (dating back to 1985) ranks as the second longest in Major League history.

"I think this city has been waiting for this for a long time, and the fact that we're doing it in the fashion that we are is tremendous," said James Shields, Kansas City's Game 1 starter. "This is our goal in Spring Training, and we had one mindset, and that was to go to the World Series and win it. And to be able to be here on this big stage is exactly what we've been working really hard for all season long."

Defying the assertion that the Wild Card Game, added in 2012, would prove to be an unclearable hurdle for a Wild Card team to advance to the World Series, both the Giants and Royals emerged from the winner-take-all Wild Card Games and then twice overcame the home-field advantage of their opponents. This World Series gets it start in Kansas City thanks to the AL's victory in the All-Star Game.

Since MLB started using the All-Star Game outcome to determine home-field advantage, the team that has held it has been crowned World Series champions eight times out of 11. That included the Giants in both 2010 and '12. With a series win over the Royals, the Giants would join the Yankees as the only clubs over the last 40 years to boast three championships during a five-year span.

"I was amazed at the Yankees on what they accomplished. It's not that easy," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who will send Madison Bumgarner to the mound in Game 1. "I mean, first of all, you've got to get there. Then the road to get there now is a lot more difficult than it used to be. It used to be two pennant winners going at it, and now you have to go through some playoffs, and this year we had the extra one with the [Wild Card] playoff game."

While the two clubs have no October history, they aren't entirely unfamiliar with one another. In August, Interleague Play sent the Giants to Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals completed a sweep during a stretch in which they won 14 of 16 games. San Francisco was outscored, 16-6, with Bumgarner taking one of those losses in a complete-game effort.

Now, the Giants are back, with the lights brighter, the stakes higher and just the second World Series Wild Card matchup on tap. The first all-Wild Card World Series also involved the Giants, who lost a thrilling seven-game series to the Angels in 2002. An unexpected October clash, for sure. But one certain to add to the drama of a postseason in which there have already been 14 games determined by one run.

"This is final, you know?" Royals manager Ned Yost said. "This is the last big series, and there are two teams left standing, which is special. I think it's a great matchup between both clubs. I think that both teams are ready for this."

Giants: Morse set as designated hitter

Content to leave Travis Ishikawa in left field, Bochy intends to make room for Michael Morse in his Game 1 lineup by using him as the Giants' designated hitter. Morse came off the bench to hit a game-tying home run off Pat Neshek in the eighth inning to set up the Giants' walk-off win over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS. That was just the sixth at-bat Morse had taken since the end of August, as he spent six weeks recovering from a strained oblique muscle before being added to the NLCS roster.

Morse went 2-for-4 pinch-hitting against the Cardinals and has 33 career starts as a DH, including four earlier this season. This will be his first time filling the spot in the postseason.

Royals: A layoff letdown?

Kansas City knocked Baltimore out of the postseason last Wednesday, leaving the Royals with a five-day layoff before they pick up World Series play against the Giants. So will that downtime hurt? History suggests probably not.

Of the 13 teams with five or more days off between the LCS and World Series, seven have gone on to win a championship. Those clubs went 6-7 in Game 1. Short-sightedness may be contributing to the assumption that the Royals will be affected by the layoff, as only one of five teams since 2006 with at five or more days off between the two rounds has gone on to win it all.

Worth noting

• MLB announced that it will dedicate Game 1 to honoring veterans and military families as part of its Welcome Back Veterans program. There will be an on-field, pregame ceremony to highlight this initiative.

• With a Game 1 win, the Royals would tie the Yankees (1927-32, 1998-99) for the most consecutive postseason victories with 12.

• In winning 15 of their last 17 postseason games, the Giants have outscored their opponents, 77-32, while posting a staff ERA of 1.71.

No comments: