Game 7: Riding with Ned Yost


It was three games ago that Royals manager Ned Yost said he wanted the World Series to go seven games, according to a tweet from Kansas City Star reporter Andy McCullough. “Somewhere inside of me, secretly I had hoped it would go seven games for the excitement and thrill of it,” McCullough tweeted Yost as saying.

Yost has his wish, even if he should know it’s no longer a secret once you tell someone. And baseball fans get theirs: one more game, and just the second Game 7 in the last 12 World Series. The bad news is Harold Reynolds is still around to talk about it. And talk about it.

Yost also said he had the feeling whoever won Game 6 is going to win Game 7, which would have been news to the Giants and mathematicians everywhere had the Giants prevailed. But we know what Ned meant, which isn’t always easy.

The Series hasn’t been thrilling so far — it’s the first to go seven games with five of them decided by five runs or more — but Yost has a plan for that, too: he’s starting Jeremy Guthrie in Game 7.

Guthrie, who started and won Game 3 without striking out a single Giant, has served as rookie Yordano Ventura’s translator this season, and the Royals thanked him Tuesday with a gift certificate to a local barbecue restaurant. Too bad they couldn’t give him Ventura’s fastball, which might help more tonight. Yes, Guthrie’s fastball could use some of Ventura’s sizzle.

Starting Guthrie in a Game 7 managed by Yost might be more daredevil than Royals fans can handle. But it beats the alternative for the Royals, who couldn’t win Game 7 until they won Game 6 first, which they did as easily as any winning team in this Series, which is saying something.

The Royals have some history on their side: the home team has won the last nine Series Game 7s — although it’s taken Jose Mesa blowing a save, Mariano Rivera blowing a sacrifice bunt and Lonnie Smith blowing a figurative tire to keep that streak going. And the Giants have lost their last three: 1924 in 12 innings to the Senators, when Walter Johnson threw four shutout innings in relief; 1962 by 1-0 to the Yankees, when Bobby Richardson snared Willie McCovey’s line drive and 2002 to the Angels, when Dusty Baker was so sure of victory with a 5-0 lead in Game 6 he gave starting pitcher Russ Ortiz the ball to take with him. Wonder where Ortiz displays that piece of forget-abilia. (The Giants did win Game 7 in 1921 vs. the Yankees, when the Series was best-of-nine on their way to winning in eight; and won Game 7 in 1912 vs. the Red Sox, though they lost the deciding Game 8 and Series, 4-3. Game 2 was played to a tie.) Not to mention the Royals’ 1-0 record in Series Game 7s.

The Royals also have Yost, a manager whose moves are so often questioned he has his own hashtag: #Yosted. Yost is one of the few managers to take a team to the playoffs and get fired while doing it, which he did in 2008 with the Brewers. They made the playoffs as the wild-card, but fired Yost after 150 games in the middle of a 3-11 stretch and replaced him with Dale Sveum. That should tell you something, and it’s not good.

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said Yost “was kind of out of answers,” which suggests he had any to start with. (Sveum was just as puzzled: the Brewers lost to the world champion Phillies in four. Maybe the problem wasn’t the manager.)

Yost hasn’t had much of an impact vs. the Giants, because while the Series is close, the games haven’t been. The average margin has been nearly six runs per game.

If your rooting interest is close games, don’t despair. The 1960 Series was a little like this one — one one-run game, three 10-run-plus blowouts and an average margin of nearly seven runs per game in the first six — and it produced a pretty good Game 7.

The only one-run game in this series was adroitly handled by Yost, who snuck two outs from rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan on his way to Wade Davis and Greg Holland after 27 pitches from Kelvin Herrera. The Giants went meekly in the end.

The Royals have won 11 of their 14 postseason games, including five by one run and four in extra innings. With a wild-card team that won 89 games, that’s not in spite of Yost, though it seems no one will say it’s because of him, either. But maybe he knows what he’s doing.

We know Bochy does, because he’s won the Series twice. That might be why no one’s asking him a glaring question: Why is Buster Posey still hitting third? Posey is certainly the Giants’ best player — he hit .311 with 22 home runs this year and his 5.2 WAR is 1.6 more than Hunter Pence, who’s next best — but Posey is 4-for-22 in the Series and .262 for the postseason, without an extra-base hit in 65 at-bats. It’s a small sample size, but his .590 postseason OPS is telling enough that you wonder if his lack of production is physical. It doesn’t help that he ran into several outs on the bases in the NLDS; that hasn’t been a problem in the Series, mostly because he hasn’t been on much.

(The other question for Bochy is: What’s the next word you hear after Hunter Strickland enters the game? Answer: Incoming, usually from the fans in the right-field seats. The home run Strickland allowed Tuesday was his sixth in 8.1 postseason innings.)

The big question is about Madison Bumgarner, and it may answer itself. It’s not how Bochy uses him in Game 7 that matters, but when. If Bochy has to use him early, as he did Yusmeiro Petit on Tuesday, then the Giants are probably behind.

Mike Mussina’s long relief saved the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, but Grady Little didn’t have Yost’s bullpen (and he didn’t use his own bullpen, until it was too late). Randy Johnson won Game 7 of the 2001 Series in short relief, but the Diamondbacks’ closer, Byung-Hyun Kim, did a pretty good Strickland impression in allowing three home runs in two games. And the Giants don’t need Bumgarner for the late innings: their four important short components — lefties Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt, eighth-inning man Segio Romo and closer Santiago Casilla — have had none of Kim’s ills, allowing just one run in 27.1 postseason innings. It’s going to be hard for Bumgarner to do better than that.

Game 7 is not Bochy vs. Yost, but Giants vs. Royals, which is probably a good thing for the latter. But maybe Yost’s fascination of Game 7, and appreciation of it, isn’t such a bad thing. It’s gotten his team this far. What’s one more game?

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