Kansas City Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez finally broke out of his slumber. Omar Infante caught fire, too, and rookie flame-thrower Yordano Ventura battled to keep his team in the game. Unlikely heroes? Not really. The American League champions play as a force collectively. So for now, this squad has fought the San Francisco Giants to a draw in this year’s Fall Classic.
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It didn’t look pretty when the Royals answered the opening bell. It was almost embarrassing. I was disappointed with shortstop Alcides Escobar’s crucial at-bat in game one, when runners were at second and third base with no outs in the second inning. Instead of trying to put the ball in play, the Venezuelan selfishly wanted to tie the score and swung at air on three elevated pitches. But Escobar rebounded nicely the next evening, slapping a hit and an RBI double, which is the type of performance that’s expected of him. Lesson learned.
The only positive vibe from the Royal’s initial loss was a big fly from Perez. It meant nothing in terms of the score, but going yard did wonders for Salvador’s confidence at the plate. Like his countryman Escobar, he also had a big night in the rematch that produced two more runs. Then there was Omar Infante, the veteran defensive wizard who also had a live bat. All he did was drive a bullet against the wall and deposit the ball into the left field seats. That pretty much blew things open and evened the score.
I was proud of Ventura, the 23-year-old ace who faced tremendous pressure to deadlock the series after the horrible performance from James Shields, who likes to blame everyone but himself for his postseason issues. Ventura made a big mistake against Gregor Blanco, the Giants smooth center fielder, in the opening stanza of game two and paid for it. He recovered, however, to do his job before turning the mound duties over to Kelvin Herrera, another power pitcher who throws the ball in triple-digits. But it upset me when Ventura failed to acknowledge the deafening cheers from the home crowd as he walked off the field. Not very humble, young man. More lessons to learn.
There have been some non-Latinos who have stepped it up for Kansas City as well. Billy Butler is “the man” and should be credited for making some adjustments as the Royals’ DH, a role he had not previously embraced during the regular season. Now, Butler must come off the bench as a pinch-hitter with his team now visiting the City by the Bay. As for relief specialist Wade Davis, this dude is a beast. He has been the Royals’ savior, including that bizarre Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s.
The San Francisco Giants are still in good shape. The experience this group has on the big stage is a definite edge. Pablo Sandoval is up to his usual playoff magic, and Bruce Bochy’s boys have the next three games on home turf. But don’t expect the Royals to get swept and go down for the count. These survivors got punched in the mouth and answered back. In my view, this dog fight will go at least six games before a winner is crowned.