The Kansas City Royals are one game away from winning the World Series.
You know that baseball has had a spectacular postseason if you can write that sentence with a straight face. A franchise that for so many years wasn’t worth thinking about, that represented the big-market/small-market chasm that ruptured the game after the 1994 baseball strike, is really that close to a championship. You might not like Bud Selig, who is retiring as baseball’s commissioner early next year. And his baby, revenue redistribution from the richer teams to poorer ones like Kansas City, might not be a tonic for the Royals and their small-market brethren, as he’d like fans to believe. But those extra dollars haven’t hurt Kansas City. And if Selig hands out his last World Series trophy to the Royals, you’ve got to admit, that’s one hell of a way for him to go out.
Since 1979, nine World Series have gone the distance to a seventh game. In that time, no home team has lost a Game 7. So besides any residual good vibes from Tuesday night’s 10-0 Game 6 blowout of the Giants, the Royals have a bit of history on their side. The starting pitchers Wednesday are Jeremy Guthrie for Kansas City, and Tim Hudson for San Francisco. But if fans get lucky, the starters won’t have much of an impact on the game. No, for this game to be a classic, it needs to come down to a bullpen duel between Kansas City’s excellent—and rested—trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, and Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco’s dominant (but not quite as rested) starting pitcher who will be available in the pen tonight. Bumgarner totally shut down the Royals in Game 1 and Game 5. Can he make like Randy Johnson in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, and provide spot relief duty in the series-clinching game?
It’s only fitting for a small-ball series to come down to late-inning pitching.
Game 7s are all too rare in baseball. This is just the second World Series to go the distance since 2002. The Royals aren’t likely to win again easily. The Giants are going for their third title in five seasons: They have a dynasty at stake. The teams are too evenly-matched. From the beginning, pundits said this series had seven games written all over it, and for once, the pundits were correct.
Kansas City, and its bullpen fireballers, just need to close it out.