SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — All season long and deep into October, the Kansas City Royals have relied on their winning formula of fundamental baseball: sparkling defense, a dominant bullpen and just enough timely hitting.
It won them a wild card and the American League pennant. And now, it has manager Ned Yost and his team on top in the World Series.
Jeremy Guthrie outpitched fellow Series newcomer Tim Hudson, four Royals relievers combined on four hitless innings and Kansas City beat the San Francisco Giants 3-2 Friday night for a 2-1 lead in the Fall Classic.
“This is the way our games have gone all year,” said Yost, who made several lineup changes that paid off. “I’m getting really good at protecting a one-run lead because a lot of times that’s exactly what we have to deal with. But I have the necessary tools to be able to do that.”
Alex Gordon hit a run-scoring double and Lorenzo Cain made two slick grabs in right field as the Royals backed Guthrie with nifty glove work. All night long, Kansas City looked perfectly comfortable playing in the tricky territory at unfamiliar AT&T Park.
Eric Hosmer had a sixth-inning RBI single on the 11th pitch of his at-bat against lefty Javier Lopez. It was the first World Series hit for Hosmer — on his 25th birthday.
Cain drove in the first run with a groundout after Alcides Escobar’s leadoff double.
Game 4 is Saturday night, with right-hander Ryan Vogelsong scheduled to pitch for the Giants against lefty Jason Vargas.
“We’ve got to keep grinding. It’s going to be a tough series,” said Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson, added to the starting lineup in Game 3.
Yost moved Cain from center to right in place of Nori Aoki for a defensive upgrade in the expansive outfield at AT&T Park. Cain chased down Buster Posey’s slicing line drive in the first for a pretty catch from his knees, then snagged Travis Ishikawa’s sinking liner in the second.
“A lot of people are coming up to me and saying they can’t believe how good our defense is, but it’s been that way all year long,” Cain said.
Gordon was moved up from sixth to second in the lineup and came through with his RBI double following Escobar’s single in the sixth.
On a night that began with a remembrance of late Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, a cast of Giants Hall of Famers were celebrated on the field in a star-studded pregame ceremony featuring a “Play Ball!” chant by Huey Lewis.
But the Royals seemed unfazed by the fanfare and tough conditions in improving to 5-0 on the road this postseason.
The Giants had their six-game home winning streak in the World Series snapped. The unbeaten run dated to the 2002 club led by Barry Bonds that lost in seven games to the Angels.
Pinch-hitter Michael Morse hit an RBI double with none out in the sixth to chase Guthrie. Yost turned it over to his fantastic bullpen, and Kelvin Herrera immediately walked Gregor Blanco.
With the hard-throwing Herrera clocking 99-101 mph on the radar gun, Joe Panik had a tough time attempting a sacrifice bunt. His high-bouncing grounder still did the trick to advance both runners, and Posey pulled the Giants to 3-2 on a groundout.
Then, the Royals shut down San Francisco the rest of the way.
“I don’t know if there’s a better bullpen,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Hopefully you get some runs early, but Guthrie did a great job on us.”
Herrera worked 1 1-3 innings, rookie Brandon Finnegan got two outs in his World Series debut, and Wade Davis pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Greg Holland got three quick outs for a save.
The four hitless innings of relief were the most in the World Series in 22 years.
“Our bullpen’s been lights out. We’ve got 100 percent confidence in them guys getting their job done,” Dyson said.
Guthrie, who attended nearby Stanford, retired 10 straight during one stretch and combined with Hudson to set down 20 in a row. That was the longest Series streak since the Yankees’ Don Larsen and the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Sal Maglie retired the first 23 batters during Larsen’s perfect game in 1956, according to STATS.
As a gorgeous Bay Area afternoon turned into a breezy night along the water, the 39-year-old Hudson left in the sixth to a rousing ovation from the orange towel-twirling sellout crowd.
Hudson waited 16 years for his first World Series chance only to watch Escobar hit the game’s first pitch for a double. The right-hander escaped a jam in the second and settled in nicely after that. He retired 12 in a row before Escobar’s one-out single through Hudson’s legs in the sixth.
“It’s a tough one to swallow. It was a hard-fought game on both sides, like everybody probably anticipated,” Hudson said. “We just came up a little short. They just did the little things they needed to beat us.”
PUTTING UP ZEROS
Guthrie went five-plus innings and did not have a strikeout or walk in his first career postseason win.
Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval went 0 for 4, ending his streak of reaching base safely in 25 straight postseason games. The run dated to Game 4 of the 2012 NL Division Series against Cincinnati.
Royals: Vargas, an 11-game winner who pitched the ALCS clincher against Baltimore, attended Game 1 of the Giants’ 2010 World Series at AT&T Park against Texas with his wife as a fan.
Giants: Vogelsong is the only pitcher to yield no more than one run in his first five postseason starts. That run ended in the NL Championship Series when Vogelsong allowed four runs in three innings of a no-decision against St. Louis.