The seagulls barely had time to start sorting over the leftovers as the crowd filed out of AT&T Park after the Giants’ Game 3 World Series loss when some of their fans started acting like the only thing left of their team was the carcass. OK, the Kansas City Royals have a 2-1 lead following their 3-2 victory, but that is no reason for the late-night sports talk callers to cry out in desperation. The first thing they want to do is bring back Madison Bumgarner on three days rest to pitch Game 4. That idea gained traction during the day because of a report on the MLB Network that Bumgarner reportedly responded to a question by saying that he volunteered to make the start. Anyone who has ever heard the ultra-modest Bumgarner would instantly question the validity of such a report. Bumgarner later pointed out that he never pushed himself into the Game 4 scenario, and expressed full confidence that scheduled starter Ryan Vogelsong was the man for the job.
Exhale, Giants fans. Breathe slowly. This is not a time for desperation.
Vogelsong vs. Jason Vargas in Game 4 is a fair fight. If Vogelsong gets in early trouble, Yusmeiro Petit remains rested and ready for some shutdown innings. And even if the Giants fall to 3-1 in the Series, they would still have Bumgarner on normal days rest to move the Series back to Kansas City.
But beyond the manufactured non-Bumgarner-Vogelsong controversy is the fact that is a fascinating World Series for fans of the Giants, Royals and baseball in general. These teams are very similar, with overall starting rotations that keep you in the game, reliable bullpens and just enough hitting to win the close ones. They are intriguing baseball teams that have both dispatched opponents that appeared stronger than them. The Giants and Royals are playing a good game of hardball, and a lot of the country is missing out as TV ratings sit at record lows.
Breaking it down: It looks like the Giants are going to have to turn this Series into a Chicago election, where folks vote early and often. The Giants are going to have to score early and often to avoid having to beat the Royals bullpen. The Royals’ Big Three of Kelvin Herrrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, plus the addition of Brandon Finnegan, kept the Giants scoreless over the last four innings. The Kansas City starters are more vulnerable, but the Giants could do little against Jeremy Guthrie, and trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth. San Francisco rallied for two in their half, but the Royals bullpen took over from there. The Giants are going to have to get more from the top of the order to stay with the Royals. Gregor Blanco, Joe Panik and Buster Posey are a combined 6-for-36 in the three games.
Morse to start? Michael Morse, who hasn’t played in the field since returning from an oblique injury, might get a shot in left field. His potentially lethal bat is too valuable to not give him three or four at bats if he can handle the position. Morse got the Giants first run home with a single in Game 3, but really got the attention of the Giants coaching staff and the Orange Friday crowd with a mammoth blast to left that was just foul. The Giants are probably not giving up that much on defense by having him replace Travis Ishikawa in left. Ishikawa nearly misplayed what should have been a routine running catch into a diving save with two on in the second. With all the talk about small ball, Morse remains that three-run homer threat the Giants could use to jump out early. Another option: Put Morse at first where he is less a defensive risk and move Belt to left, where he probably would be about equal to Ishikawa.
Lincecum sighting: Tim Lincecum warmed up in the bullpen, but though he never was brought in, that was a positive sign that the back strain that ended his night in Game 2 is not serious. It also seems that Lincecum has been promoted past ineffective relievers Jean Machi and Hunter Strickland. The AT&T crowd is poised to erupt if Lincecum takes the mound for Games 4 or 5.
MVP: Still a bit early, but Bumgarner might be leading in the early competiton with his strong Game 1 start, and could pick up more votes with a solid Game 5. Hunter Pence is also on the early list, having gone 4-for-10 with a double, homer, two RBI and three walks. Alcides Escobar is probably the only Royal to stand out so far with 5-for-12 in the leadoff role. No Royals starter has lasted more than 5-1/3 innings, so they are not in the mix. If the Royals do win, voters might have to declare the first-ever three-way MVP tie, and award the trophy to Herrera, Davis and Holland.
Game times: The first three games seemed to have been played swiftly, with a minimum of mid-inning pitching changes and limited scoring, but they have all exceeded three hours. The three games have been played in 3:32, 3:25 and 3:15. The first three games of the 2013 Series were played in 3:17, 3:05 and 3:54, so this seems to be about the pace these days. The times are relevant because baseball likes to talk about ways to speed up the games. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal — members of the Giants 1962 World Series team — were on the field during pregame ceremonies. The first three games of the Series that year were played in 2:43, 2:11 and 2:06. The first World Series was played in 1903 between the Boston Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates. Those first three games were played in 1:55, 1:47 and 1:50.
I’m not one to want games speeded up dramatically. I often get to a game up to 90 minutes early for batting practice, and stay until the final out, so I really wouldn’t want a two-hour game. I want the express line to move fast at the grocery store, but I’m never in a hurry when I’m at the ballpark. I do see some double talk in major league baseball pushing for faster games while allowing long commercial breaks in the post season. But my real irritant is how the TV broadcast goes from the last commercial message right to the field as the pitcher is winding up. I’m not staring at the screen during all their commercials, so I keep missing the first pitch at the start of every inning.
Weather factor: In the 1950s there was a saying about the Boston Braves, “Spahn and Sain, and pray for rain.” The idea is that the Braves would be happy to be able to start aces Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain every game, and such a weather pattern would allow that. There is supposed to be some rain for Game 4. It probably won’t be enough for a postponement, but if it was, should Bumgarner start Game 4 for the Giants if it was played on Sunday when his normal turn comes up? The answer, of course, is Yes! Yes! Yes!