Note: April 10, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Each week, I will look at one memorable moment in stadium history, with the top moment revealed on April 10, 2023. Missed an entry? You can find past ones here.
The 2014 Royals’ run to the World Series was so unexpected and so fast. One second they were losing the Wild Card game, then the next second they were in the World Series, it seemed. But it all came to a screeching halt in the first game of the Series. The San Francisco Giants jumped on James Shields for three runs in the first inning, Madison Bumgarner held the Royals to three hits over seven innings, and the Giants won easily, 7-1. Suddenly, it seemed like a valid question whether the Royals (despite actually having one more regular-season win than the Giants) even belonged on this big stage.
Then Gregor Blanco led off the second game with a home run off Yordano Ventura. But anyone who expected this particular Royals team to fold hadn’t been paying attention. With two outs in the first after Alcides Escobar had been thrown out trying to steal second, Lorenzo Cain doubled and Nori Aoki drew a walk from Giants starter Jake Peavy. Billy Butler smacked a single into center field to score Cain and tie the game.
Kansas City took the lead in the bottom of the second, with a one-out double from Omar Infante and a two-out double from Escobar. Now Ventura had a lead to protect, but the Giants were able to tie it up again in the fourth, as Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt each doubled.
Peavy and Ventura settled in after that. Ventura was pulled from the game in the sixth after singles by Buster Posey and, one out later, Hunter Pence. Here, the Royals’ primary advantage over the Giants came into play, as manager Ned Yost had the luxury of calling on Kelvin Herrera, who promptly escaped the jam with a fly ball and a groundout.
“After the sixth inning, my thinking is done.”–Yost, quoted by Jayson Stark, ESPN.com, October 23, 2014
“Hey, just tonight, their seventh-inning guy [Herrera] came in throwing 101 [miles per hour]. I mean, 101. That’s usually a closer.”–Jeremy Affeldt, quoted by Jayson Stark, ESPN.com, October 23, 2014
The Royals then made the difference clear in the bottom of the seventh with one of the “keep the line moving” innings they specialized in. Cain led off with a single and Eric Hosmer drew a walk, ending Peavy’s outing. Butler greeted Jean Machi with a solid line drive single into left, bringing Cain in again for the lead. Giants manager Bruce Bochy walked to the mound to replace Machi, calling on lefty Javier Lopez to face lefty Alex Gordon. Terrance Gore entered the game as a pinch-runner for Butler, who re-emerged from the dugout to acknowledge the crowd’s roars with a wave.
“Guys were egging me on, but I definitely heard the crowd yelling my name. It was one of those things where if your teammates tell you to do it, you’re going to get out there.”–Butler, quoted by Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com, October 23, 2014
Lopez retired Gordon, but the next pitcher, Hunter Strickland, didn’t fare as well. After a wild pitch moved the runners up, Salvador Perez lined a two-run double to the center-field fence. Infante, who had hit just six home runs all season, deposited a Strickland fastball into the Royals’ left-field bullpen for a 7-2 lead. Whether it was frustration or something else, Strickland started yelling at Perez after he had crossed home plate. The game halted briefly as the Royals’ dugout emptied, albeit in a rather leisurely fashion.
“He was telling me, ‘Get out of here, whatever.’ So I don’t know. [I said,] ‘You don’t have to treat me like that. Look at Omar. Omar hit a bomb. I didn’t hit a bomb. I hit a double.”–Perez, quoted by Jim Caple, ESPN.com, October 23, 2014
Strickland claimed there was a miscommunication, saying Perez was yelling in Spanish and he didn’t understand what the catcher was telling him. But…
“I’m not going to back down from anything. I thought he must have thought I said something to him so, and like I said, it was just the way it is. I got caught up in it.”–Strickland, quoted by Jim Caple, ESPN.com, October 23, 2014
Strickland wasn’t ejected, but was replaced by Affeldt on the mound. The former Royal became San Francisco’s fifth pitcher of the inning. The most effective, as well, getting two outs on an Escobar double play after a Mike Moustakas single.
But the game was effectively over. Herrera did have to work around two walks in the seventh, but was able to keep the score 7-2. Wade Davis retired the Giants in order in the eighth with two strikeouts, and Greg Holland struck out the first two batters in the ninth. Brandon Crawford’s single only delayed the inevitable, and Holland struck out Blanco to end the game and even the Series up at a game apiece.
“We showed them that we have fight in us, and I think they knew that already.”–Butler, quoted by the Associated Press, October 23, 2014