Royals’ middle bullpen implodes as Giants even series at two apiece

The series was knotted up Saturday night when the Giants took advantage of a shaky start from Jason Vargas.

Kyle Terada/Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

SAN FRANCISCO — The Royals and Giants have played four games in the World Series and it’s all square at 2-2. But the Royals still have the home-field advantage, with Games 6 and, if needed, 7 at Kauffman Stadium.

The Series was knotted up Saturday night when the Giants took advantage of a shaky start from Jason Vargas and an uncharacteristic cave-in by the Royals’ bullpen to wipe out a 4-1 deficit and blast the Royals, 11-4.

To be fair, the Giants didn’t exactly bomb the Royals’ middle relievers — it was more death by paper cut as the Giants blooped and doinked and rolled grounders through open spaces all night.

Now the Royals will have to buckle up with James Shields on the mound Sunday night in a rematch start against tough lefty Madison Bumgarner.

3 UP

— LoCain’s hustle. With two outs in the third, Lorenzo Cain beat out a grounder to shortstop, as he has done so often this season. That set off a chain of events that led the Royals to wiping out a 1-0 deficit and taking a 4-1 lead. For the moment, all looked good.

— Omar’s at-bat. Omar Infante, later in that same inning, came through with a clutch two-out, two-run single to center that put the Royals up, 3-1. Infante’s bat still will be needed, especially Sunday night against Bumgarner, so Royals fans are hoping he stays hot.

— Dyson’s catch. Center fielder Jarrod Dyson made the defensive play of the game in the fifth inning. With the Royals leading, 4-3, the bases loaded and one out, San Francisco’s Juan Perez blooped a ball to short center that looked like it would fall in for a two-run single. But Dyson came flying in and made a diving catch, preventing an even bigger inning. The play resulted in a sacrifice fly and a tie game, but the inning could have been way, way worse.

3 DOWN

— No bridge. The Royals truly needed Vargas to go beyond four innings. And when he couldn’t, manager Ned Yost tried to patch together a bridge to get to his three-headed monster. But left-handers Danny Duffy and Brandon Finnegan couldn’t hold off the Giants. Duffy, with the Royals still in the lead, served up a single, a walk and a sacrifice fly. Finnegan probably deserved a better fate as the Giants started off the three-run sixth with a broken-bat blooper to right and another flare to left, which set off a series of seeing-eye grounders that put the game out of reach. Seldom-used Tim Collins then came in in the seventh and added fuel to the fire as the Giants poured four more across to make it a blowout.

— The Vargas non-walk. Believe it or not, the game could have turned on a strange sequence in the third inning. After the Royals already had put up four runs to take a 4-1 lead, they still had the bases loaded with two outs and Vargas up. Vargas worked the count to 2-2, then a pitch was called outside. Vargas dropped his bat and took off for first base, thinking he had forced in a run. He was called back to the plate by umpire Ted Barrett, of course, as the Royals’ dugout howled in laughter (one of the only amusing parts of the night). Then Vargas took what he thought was a pitch inside for the real ball four. Replays confirmed the pitch was inside, but Barrett rang up Vargas for strike three. That cost the Royals a 5-1 lead, maybe more as the Giants were reeling.

— Moose’s bad at-bat. The Royals had a chance to add to a 4-2 lead in the fifth when Eric Hosmer led off and laced a double to right. The Giants put the shift on for Mike Moustakas, and all he had to do was roll a grounder to the right side to advance Hosmer. But Moose early in the count jammed himself on a pitch inside and out of the strike zone and popped out to short. The Royals then didn’t score.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.