When he last took the mound in the Fall Classic in 2012, Ryan Vogelsong pitched the San Francisco Giants to within one win of their second championship in three years.
Now the right-hander is tasked with trying to keep the visiting Kansas City Royals from moving one win shy of their first World Series title in 29 years when he opposes Jason Vargas in Game 4 on Saturday night.
The Royals continued their remarkable playoff run Friday, putting the Giants behind in a series for the first time since the 2012 NLCS with a 3-2 victory.
Lorenzo Cain drove in a first-inning run off Tim Hudson before Alex Gordon delivered an RBI double and scored on Eric Hosmer’s single in the sixth inning as Kansas City improved to 10-1 in the postseason.
Gordon ended an 0-for-9 Series slump with his 10th RBI of the playoffs, while Hosmer – celebrating his 25th birthday – snapped his 0-for-8 slide against the Giants.
Kansas City relievers have limited opponents to a .161 average in the playoffs after working four hitless innings Friday, including Greg Holland’s MLB record-tying seventh save of the postseason.
”I don’t know if there’s a better bullpen, because that seventh, eighth and ninth inning, and you get a tough go when you’re facing those guys,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Of the first 56 times the World Series was tied 1-all, the Game 3 winner went on to win in 37 of those instances.
”We’ve got to keep grinding," Kansas City center fielder Jarrod Dyson said. "It’s going to be a tough series."
The surprising Royals, seeking their first crown since 1985, snapped San Francisco’s six-game home winning streak in World Series games dating to Game 4 of the 2002 Fall Classic.
The Giants are hoping to even things up at AT&T Park behind Vogelsong, who had become the only pitcher to yield no more than one run in his first five postseason starts. He couldn’t extend that run in Game 4 of the NLCS, however, giving up four runs in three innings before the Giants rallied for a 6-4 win.
Vogelsong is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in his six career playoff starts – all San Francisco victories. In his only World Series appearance in 2012, he pitched 5 2-3 innings of a 2-0 win in Game 3 against Detroit that helped send the Giants to a sweep.
”The biggest thing is the experience of curbing the emotions,” he said. ”It’s definitely a situation where you have to be locked into the game and your thoughts need to be on the game, but you have to take a second to look around and take it all in.”
Omar Infante is the only Royals regular with experience against Vogelsong, and he’s 7 for 11 in their matchups – all since 2011.
Vargas has pitched well in his first two postseason starts, allowing two runs in six innings in the division series opener against Los Angeles before getting the win when he gave up one run of 5 1-3 innings of the ALCS clincher against Baltimore.
The left-hander had seven days off before his first playoff start, 12 before the second and will have had nine before Game 4. Including the postseason, he’s 5-10 with a 4.59 ERA in 26 career starts with six or more days rest.
In between outings, he’s worked extra bullpen and side sessions to move past some mechanical issues that plagued him while going 1-5 with a 5.89 ERA in his final seven starts of the regular season.
”He was a guy that was consistent for us all year," manager Ned Yost said. "Struggled a little bit his last three or four starts in September, but, again, a lot of that was mechanical, and he’s made the adjustment."
Vargas faced the Giants during Kansas City’s home sweep of San Francisco in August, allowing two runs and nine hits over five innings in a 4-2 win.
Buster Posey is 2 for 7 with a home run versus Vargas, while Michael Morse is 3 for 13 with a homer. Morse had a pinch-hit RBI double in the sixth inning Friday before scoring on Posey’s groundout to account for the team’s only runs.
Pablo Sandoval had reached base in a club-record 25 consecutive playoff games before going 0 for 4 in Game 3.