While this year’s Fall Classic was billed as the first-ever matchup of teams that failed to win 90 games in a 162-game season, the subplot for Game 1 featured two much-less-dubious feats. The Kansas City Royals entered Tuesday as the only team ever to win its first eight games in a postseason. The San Francisco Giants came to Kauffman Stadium having won their last seven playoff series openers on the road, the longest such streak in major-league history. One of those runs would end, the other would live on, and the latter’s owner would jump out to a 1-0 lead.
That’s significant, because the winner of the opener has gone on to take 10 of the last 11 titles. After a 7-1 romp, in which they silenced the crowd early and added on before the home club could counter, the Giants now have history on their side.
Here are five things you didn’t know about the game.
1. Giants starter Madison Bumgarner took the hill with a 3-0 lead, which spelled trouble for the Royals, because the left-hander had not permitted a run in either of his first two World Series assignments — Game 4 in 2010, Game 2 in 2012 — and had set the record for the most consecutive scoreless playoff innings on the road earlier this October. Bumgarner was aggressive, throwing first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 26 batters he faced, and the Royals did not get on the board until the 25th batter, Salvador Perez, launched a solo home run with two away in the seventh inning.By then, it was 7-0 Giants, more than enough to console the 25-year-old, who lost his record streak as a visitor at 32 2/3 frames.
2. The visiting Giants never trailed on Tuesday, thanks in large part to their three-run first-inning rally, capped by a two-run jack from Hunter Pence. Bruce Bochy’s right fielder dug in with more experience against James Shields than any other Giant, but his résumé before Game 1 — 0-for-11 with three strikeouts — was fit only for the recycling bin.
That high fastball he sent over the center-field wall in the first and his leadoff double that sparked a two-run Giants fifth earned Pence a post-game interview last night. Pence also drew two walks against the bullpen, becoming the first player to log two extra-base knocks and two free passes in a World Series game since Carlos Ruiz in Game 2 in 2008, which, coincidentally, was Shields’s only previous Fall Classic outing.
3. It probably won’t make Shields feel any better this morning, but he’s far from the first pitcher to suffer at the Giants’ hands in a recent playoff series opener. Since the turn of the century (14 series), Game 1 starters facing San Francisco are a combined 0-12 with an 8.00 ERA.
The pair who watched their teams go on to win were the Reds’ Johnny Cueto, who exited with an injury one batter into the 2012 NLDS, and the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn, who was done after 3 2/3 in Game 1 of the same year’s NLCS.
4. One thing can be said for the Royals: While they struggled to score against Bumgarner, they made the southpaw work. Ned Yost’s lineup ranked second-to-last in the American League and 27th in the majors by seeing 3.74 pitches per plate appearances during the regular season, a tick ahead of the Seattle Mariners (3.73), who sat in the junior circuit’s caboose. On Tuesday, Kansas City averaged 4.06 offerings per trip — which would have eked out the Red Sox (4.05) for the league lead had they sustained it from April through September.
ALCS Most Valuable Player Lorenzo Cain was a pest throughout the night. He made life difficult for the Giants’ ace in the very first inning, when he fell behind 0-2, laid off of two balls to even the count, fouled off three straight pitches, and then took offering no. 8 for the team to give the Royals their first base runner. Cain fought his way out of another 0-2 hole to work a six-pitch walk that loaded the bases in the third, before Bumgarner finally retired the center fielder on the seventh pitch of their meeting in the sixth.
Yost’s center fielder was the only home hitter to earn his way aboard twice in Game 1.
5. After downing the Rangers in five games in 2010 and sweeping the Tigers in 2012, the Giants have now won seven consecutive World Series contests. That might sound impressive, but it only puts them halfway to the all-time record of 14. Bochy’s bunch would have to sweep the Royals and bring the brooms in its next trip to the Fall Classic just to match the 1996-2000 Bombers.
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.
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