World Series Game 3 Recap: The Dreaded Sixth
Uh, guys? It, uh...it happened again.
Maybe the San Francisco Giants should just stop playing sixth innings. Just skip right over it, like hotels and office buildings skip over that perilous 13th floor. Would Bud Selig let something like that happen? Is there a phone call to the Commissioner's Office that needs to be made?
In Game 3 of the World Series Friday night, the dreaded sixth inning reared its ugly head once again for San Francisco, as starter Tim Hudson faltered, the Giants middle relievers failed to get their starter off the hook, and allowed Kansas City to score two huge runs, giving the Royals a 3-2 victory and a two-games-to-one lead in this best-of-seven Fall Classic.
Jim Sannes did a terrific breakdown of the Giants' sixth-inning woes after Wednesday night's Game 2 loss in which San Francisco gave up five runs in the sixth, after manager Bruce Bochy left starter Jake Peavy in too long. And this piece by Grantland's Jonah Keri also noted the Giants' struggles with the sixth inning all season, in which batters hit .270/.330/.426 against them in that frame.
Why is this happening? There are two reasons.
First, when you have less-than-elite starting pitching, those pitchers typically run into trouble the more times a hitter sees them. At around the sixth inning, teams begin moving through their order for the third time, and when you have starters like Hudson, Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong (who could start Game 4 unless they bring Madison Bumgarner back on short rest) who don't have terrific swing-and-miss stuff, they're more likely to get hammered the third time through the lineup.
During the regular season, Hudson's ERA was 3.57, but in the sixth inning, it jumped to 6.53. Vogelsong's ERA was 4.00, but in the sixth inning it was 7.40. This is not a coincidence.
And second, a team's middle relievers are usually their worst pitchers. Of course, the Royals don't have that problem, as pretty much everyone wearing blue throws in excess of 95 mph. But for the Giants, they used Jean Machi, Javier Lopez and Hunter Strickland in Game 2.
On Saturday night, Hudson was making the first career World Series start of his 16-year career, the second-oldest pitcher to make his first-ever Fall Classic start (Jamie Moyer was the oldest during the 2008 World Series for Philadelphia). While he entered the sixth inning down 1-0, he had retired 11 in a row before Alcides Escobar singled with one out. Bochy probably should have taken Hudson out right then and there, but instead let him face the left-handed hitting Alex Gordon, who smoked this RBI double to make it 2-0 Royals.
The Giants would make a game of it, however. In the bottom of the inning, Mike Morse hit an RBI double, which was followed by an RBI groundout from Buster Posey three batters later to make it 3-2. However, the struggles for Posey continued.
And unlike Bruce Bochy's relievers, Ned Yost's Kelvin Herrera and the rest of his 'pen mates shut the door and held the lead.
Brandon Finnegan, who became the first baseball player ever to pitch in the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same season, preceded Wade Davis and Derek Holland in finishing out the last three innings in the manner we've come to expect from the Kansas City bullpen, and the citizens of San Francisco went home crestfallen.
Game 3 was, of course, a crucial game. The team that wins Game 3, when the series is tied 1-1, has gone on to win the Series 66.1% of the time, including 4 of the last 5 and 11 of the last 13. Oddly, the road team has had the upper hand in situations like this, now 31-26, having won 7 of the last 10.
And after having made the playoffs as a wild card, the Royals are now 10-1 in this postseason. They currently have a 60.53% chance of taking the series according to our metrics. Sure, we all expected this.
So now, it's onto Game 4 and a virtual must-win game for San Francisco at home in which Bumgarner has to be brought back on short rest. As of this writing, Vogelsong was the expected starter for Game 4, although the Giants had kicked around the idea of starting Madison on short rest, something he's never done before.
If ever there was a time to try it, that time is now. Jason Vargas will start for Kansas City.
Hopefully for the Giants, they can just skip the sixth inning on Saturday night.