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.
Presumably because the pressure is on the trailing team, plus the fact the team leading the series can practically taste victory, a Game Six scenario in a best-of-seven series often produces classic games. Think about 1975, 1986, 2011, and even 1985–these are some of the greatest baseball games in history.
This Game Six was not one of those games.
Sure, the elements were there. The Royals were on the ropes, the clock nearing midnight on their Cinderella story, all the cliches. But they were returning home for the final two games of the season, so they had that going for them. The pitching matchup for Game Six, Yordano Ventura against Jake Peavy, was one that had worked out well for Kansas City in Game Two. And Madison Bumgarner’s complete game effort in Game Five certainly meant he would not be a factor in those last two games, right? Well, that’s a story for another day. First, the Royals had to make sure the Series continued.
Ventura took the mound with a tribute to Oscar Taveras written on his cap. The promising young Cardinals outfielder had died (along with his girlfriend) in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just minutes before the start of Game Five. Ventura had also paid tribute to Taveras on Twitter before the game, and it was clear he was pitching with an extra dose of inspiration in memory of his fellow Dominican.
Meanwhile, the Royals left two runners on in the first, but put together a seven-run outburst in the second inning. Alex Gordon started the festivities with a single to center. Salvador Perez hit a line drive to right, just over the glove of second baseman Joe Panik. Mike Moustakas grounded one up the right field line, just under Brandon Belt’s glove, for a 1-0 lead. Peavy finally got the first out, striking out Omar Infante. Alcides Escobar hit a chopper to Belt, who seemed briefly unsure of what to do. He looked Perez back to third, then turned and realized Escobar was burning down the line. Rather than toss the ball to Panik, who was headed for the base, Belt attempted a lunging tag that Escobar was able to avoid. The play was scored a hit, and the Royals had the bases loaded. Nori Aoki had a terrific at-bat, fouling off several pitches before smacking one into left field for another run.
That ended Peavy’s outing, a hard-luck one. Had the Perez or Moustakas hits been a few inches lower or higher, or had Belt made a better play, he might have been out of the inning with the game still scoreless. But now Yusmeiro Petit was in the game to face Lorenzo Cain, who lofted a single into short center field, good for two runs. Next came an oddity, as Eric Hosmer got two hits in one plate appearance. The first one, a ground ball to center, came just after home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg called timeout while Petit was in his motion. After a wild pitch moved Cain up to second, Hosmer hit a high chopper that bounced over the drawn-in infielders. Both runners scored as Hosmer hustled to second for a double. Billy Butler finished the scoring with perhaps the hardest-hit ball of the inning, a double to right-center that easily scored Hosmer for a 7-0 lead. Petit finally escaped the inning by retiring Gordon and Perez, but the 33-minute half-inning all but ensured a Game Seven.
Perhaps a bit rusty after the long layoff, Ventura walked the bases full in the top of the third, then got Buster Posey to ground into an inning-ending double play. From there, he would allow just two hits and two walks through seven innings. For the night, Ventura had held San Francisco to three hits, although he did walk five. But, by keeping the Royals’ bullpen rested for the next night, he had done exactly what his team needed.
“You’ve got a 23-year-old pitching in the biggest game this stadium has seen in 29 years, with our backs against the wall. And he goes out there in complete control of his emotions with great stuff and pitches seven shutout innings.”–Royals manager Ned Yost, quoted by Andy McCullough, Kansas City Star, October 29, 2014
The Royals would add on three more runs, with a pair of doubles in the third, an Infante single and Escobar double in the fifth, and a Moustakas home run off Game Two’s villain, Hunter Strickland, to lead off the seventh. That home run was the fifth postseason dinger for Moustakas, breaking Willie Aikens’ franchise record.
While the Royals would now have their three-headed bullpen monster of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland fully rested, the downside of the blowout was that Giants manager Bruce Bochy was never tempted to use Bumgarner in relief, meaning he would also have two days’ rest before Game Seven and could potentially contribute in that game.
“We got our three. We’re going to throw them at them. They’re going to throw theirs at us. Best team wins.”–outfielder Jarrod Dyson, quoted by Andy McCullough, Kansas City Star, October 29, 2014
“It’s awesome. I’ve never been a part of anything like this before. So to be part of a Game 7, winner take all, it’s very exciting. Let’s get this thing started. I can’t wait to play.”–Cain, quoted by Jayson Stark, ESPN.com, October 29, 2014