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Playoff Pinch Hits: Royals Even Up World Series; Giants Not Worried

By Sam McPherson

This isn't the way the San Francisco Giants scripted their third trip to the World Series in the last five seasons, and that's just fine with the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals' bats came alive in the sixth inning in Game Two Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, as Kansas City turned five hits and a walk into five runs to break open a tie game. The Royals bullpen then finished out the game, as the Giants failed to jump out to a 2-0 Series lead like they did in 2010 and 2012 on their way to championships.

With the 7-2 victory for the Royals, the Fall Classic heads back to San Francisco tied at one game apiece — much like the last wild-card series did in 2002, when the Giants eventually lost to the then-Anaheim Angels in seven games.

There's no use drawing any more comparisons, however, right now. These two games in Kansas City couldn't have been more different from each other — in outcome, form or function. Predictability goes out the window in October, anyway, as we've all learned in the Bud Selig era of the World Series.

Why Kansas City Needed This

History is rarely kind to teams that lose the first two games of the World Series at home, and that's what the Royals were starting at on Wednesday. But this young team shook off the pressure, and they played the kind of game they needed to play.

Try to remember how shocking it was back in 1996 when the Atlanta Braves — the defending champions, who had been in the World Series four times in five seasons at that point — took a 2-0 lead over the New York Yankees after two games in the Bronx. Those Yankees were a relatively unknown commodity at the time; they'd lost in the American League Division Series to the Seattle Mariners in 1995, dramatically, and they weren't proven winners like the Braves were.

But the Yankees stormed back to take four straight from Atlanta and launch a dynasty.

Kansas City just avoided having that kind of pressure put on them by winning Game Two.

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Why San Francisco Isn't Sweating It

These Giants have been here before.

Well, maybe not specifically here in the World Series, but San Francisco just faced this same predicament in the National League Championship Series. They took Game One in St. Louis and then lost Game Two. Coming back home to AT&T Park, the Giants proceeded to win three very close games to end the series abruptly.

That's what San Francisco would like to do again this weekend.

Added incentive for the Giants: Both their 2010 and 2012 Series-clinching games came on the road, first in Texas and then in Detroit. San Francisco would like nothing better than to give its hometown crowd the happiness of winning one on the home field.

The Giants haven't clinched a Series championship on their home field since... 1922, when the team was in New York.

Suffice it to say, there's probably not a Giants fan alive who can say he or she saw the team clinch a World Series title on its home field.

Game Three Outlook

Thursday is a travel day, and Friday will be one of those "Orange" nights in San Francisco at AT&T Park, for sure. And San Francisco starter Tim Hudson will need all the energy he can get from the home crowd.

Hudson is old: At age 39, he struggled with a 4.73 ERA in the second half of the season. The postseason has jacked him up a little bit, as Hudson has posted a 3.29 in his two October starts. But every time out has to be a grind for the old guy after throwing 189 1/3 innings in the regular season, one year after fracturing his ankle.

For the Royals, it will be journeyman Jeremy Guthrie: The 35-year-old pitcher's second-half ERA was 3.50, so his stamina may be a bit better than Hudson's for this big game. Guthrie gave up just one run in his only postseason appearance this October, going five innings against the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS.

Neither starter has ever made an appearance in the World Series before in their long careers, so look for Friday night's game to be all about the offenses.

Check out 5 Things You Missed from the World Series.

Check out other Playoff Pinch Hits.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on

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