I have made a number of life choices lately. I've moved to a new city, rented a house, started a new job, and have rebooted my life in many ways. I have tried to prepare as best I can, planned for contingencies and put myself and my family in the best possible spot going forward. I think I've done a good job and, with a little luck, we're going to be fine. In the battle of the clichés, however, I tend to subscribe to, "The best laid plans of mice and men surely go awry," far more than I do, "Luck is the residue of design."
In Friday night's World Series Game 3, those two aphorisms squared off and the winner was ... well, it was the Royals, I guess. Their plan worked and the Giants' didn't for the second straight game. Nothing the Giants tried tonight worked, while Ned Yost's decisions to start Lorenzo Cain in right field (with Jarrod Dyson taking over in center, thereby pushing Nori Aoki to the bench), place his trust in Jeremy Guthrie's hittable stuff, and once again fall back on his otherworldly bullpen at the first sign of trouble all paid off handsomely. On a day when Joe Maddon made everyone wonder what the precise value of a manager is over the course of a season, Yost proved to be a boon to the Royals in their biggest game in almost 30 years.
The trouble started for San Francisco even before the first pitch, as the gigantic flag, now a staple of postseason performances of the National Anthem, tore asunder, leading to this most fantastic observation from our own Grant Brisbee:
I'm not the one with the phrase "gigantic flag vagina" in my head. You are. pic.twitter.com/SX2wilBCVk— Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron) October 24, 2014
If you will forgive an awkward continuation of Grant's analogy, the Giants had hoped that wetting down the infield, as they had for the most of the postseason, would cut down on the Royals' advantage on the bases. The Giants were the only ones who suffered, though, as the Royals hit the ball over the pond the San Francisco grounds crew had created and Hunter Pence proved to be the only runner thrown out on the bases. Tim Hudson allowed a run early but cruised until the sixth, when he and Javier Lopez conspired to let in two more runs. None of these decisions were egregious. In fact, unlike Game 2, when he pushed a struggling Jake Peavy an inning too far, it's hard to fault Bruce Bochy at all. Sometimes you make the right calls and you still get beat.
More Game 3
More Game 3
On the other hand, every decision Yost made worked to perfection. With a stellar defense behind him, Guthrie held the Giants scoreless through five despite not registering a single strikeout. Cain made two fantastic plays in right field on line drives, while Salvador Perez played a perfect game behind the plate. Guthrie wasn't missing any bats, but was getting outs anyway. When he ran into trouble in the sixth, Yost didn't bet on luck on balls in play to continue, but was quick to go to his fire-breathing relievers. As Marc Normandin wrote after game 2, Yost's willingness to use those relievers aggressively has been his biggest contribution to Kansas City's success this postseason. Sure enough, Kelvin Herrera, pitching in his ninth (out of eleven) postseason games, staunched the bleeding with 100-mph fastballs at the knees.
Even Yost's decision to allow Herrera to make his first professional plate appearance with a man on (a pitiful-looking strikeout on a Sergio Romo slider) didn't come back to hurt him, as Herrera and rookie Brandon Finnegan shut down the Giants in the seventh, giving way to Wade Davis and Greg Holland, as automatic a pairing as there has been perhaps since Mariano Rivera and John Wetteland in the 1996 postseason. Davis struck out two on utterly unhittable stuff, while Gregor Blanco simply gave up trying to hit off of him and attempted to bunt his way on. Holland got a fly out and two weak ground balls to the mound in the ninth.
Here's another cliché for you: "When you're hot, you're hot. And when you're not you're not." As the last two games have demonstrated. Yost is absolutely scorching, and San Francisco has suddenly gone cold. If my plans work out half as well as KC's, I will be running Cedar Rapids by Opening Day, when the Royals are receiving their World Series rings.