Power outage has Giants down — but not out — in World Series

 

By the time Game 3 came to a close, the only thing colder than the breezy night air gusting through AT&T Park was the San Francisco Giants’ offense.

Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals’ posse of ruthlessly effective middle relievers and closer Greg Holland all helped shut down a helpless-looking Giants team that could only scrape out four hits in a tough 3-2 loss.

San Francisco’s first four hitters — Gregor Blanco, Joe Panik, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval — combined to go 0 for 15, and not one player in the lineup garnered more than one hit. With only two walks to account for any other baserunners, the Giants (down 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth) were constantly looking for a game-turning score that never came.

“You have to give credit to their pitching,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “They made pitches when they had to. Sandoval and Buster both are great hitters. When you’re facing this type of staff, you’re hoping to put a little pressure on them, and hopefully the heart of your order comes up with men on base.”

The Giants did have their chances and consistently put the ball in play — Guthrie actually became the first World Series starting pitcher to record a win while neither walking nor striking out a single batter — but the Royals’ defense kept the Giants at bay early, and a late-game deficit loomed too large for a team without any offensive spark.

A quartet of stellar defensive plays by the Royals helped stymy whatever modicum of sustained offense the Giants were hoping to generate. There was Lorenzo Cain’s sliding catch to rob Posey in the first, and his encore to rob Travis Ishikawa in the second. Then there was second baseman Omar Infante’s perfect shift positioning to rob Brandon Belt in the fifth, and catcher Salvador Perez’s stellar throw to first on a Blanco bunt attempt.

The end result was a two-run Giants rally in the sixth that ultimately proved to be one run too few, thanks to another shutdown performance from this stingy Royals ‘pen.

Bochy was his ever-confident self after the game suggesting the team would rebound in Game 4 against Royals lefty Jason Vargas — “We’ll wash this off and come out and be ready to go tomorrow” — but it’ll be up to the Giants’ bats to prove him right.

Two players above all others may prove vital to that effort: Blanco (at the top) and Posey (hitting third). Blanco’s defense is often jaw-dropping in center, but his 2-for-13 performance in the Series has done little to set the table in key situations. And Posey, the former National League MVP and undisputed clubhouse leader, is now hitting .154 in these 2014 playoffs.

The Giants, at this point, have no other option but to ride these two, as well as much of the rest of the lineup. The only foreseeable changes in Games 4 or 5 would likely result from somehow slotting in Michael Morse, who had a pinch-hit RBI double, at first base. But Bochy indicated after the game that he “probably won’t put (Morse) at first base.”

The Giants can still regain control of this World Series, but it will take a serious reversal from the meager output they’ve shown in Games 2 and 3. Yes, they’ve had their chances, but eventually the BABIP gods will smile down on AT&T Park and those well-struck balls will start to fall on the outfield grass and not inside Cain’s well-worn glove. And if they make it back to Kansas City for a Game 6, Morse can go back to DH, ensuring a little extra pop in the lineup.

If the Giants’ bats can’t turn it around starting Saturday night in Game 4, the Royals likely will be celebrating in San Francisco come the end of Game 5.

Then the cold of another offseason will really set in.