SF Giants vs. KC Royals: Keys for Each Team to Win World Series Game 6
It's win-or-go-home time for the Kansas City Royals.
After losing 5-0 to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 of the World Series, the Royals find themselves in a 3-2 hole heading into a must-win Game 6 on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
But this is familiar territory for the American League champions. In the Wild Card Game against the Oakland A's, the Royals rallied for four runs after the seventh inning to force extra innings, tying it once more in the 12th before Salvador Perez's walk-off hit in the following inning. That being said, the Royals will have to beat the Giants in back-to-back games to claim their first World Series title in 29 years.
The Giants, meanwhile, have an opportunity to win their third World Series in the past five years and further solidify the franchise as a dynasty. Unfortunately, the team likely will be without Bumgarner the rest of the way, at least not in a starting role, though San Francisco will still have veteran right-handers Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson on the mound in Games 6 and 7, respectively.
Here are three keys for the Giants and Royals to win Game 6 of the World Series.
Royals: Be Aggressive Against Jake Peavy
Kansas City's hitters had no problems with Jake Peavy in Game 2, tagging the veteran right-hander for four runs on six hits and two walks in five-plus innings. Peavy lasted only 66 pitches before manager Bruce Bochy lifted him with two runners on base in the sixth inning. While he did throw 41 strikes (62 percent), only four were generated by a swing-and-miss.
The Royals got to Peavy early in the game, scoring one run in the first and second innings behind five hits including doubles by Lorenzo Cain, Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar. The other two runs produced against Peavy came in the sixth inning after he had departed the game, as relievers Jean Machi and Hunter Strickland each allowed an inherited runner to score.
The fact that Kansas City's hitters had prior success against Peavy from his time on the White Sox helped them in Game 2, as the 33-year-old entered the contest with a 4.97 ERA and 10 home runs allowed in 83.1 career innings (14 starts) against the Royals.
Specifically, designated hitter Billy Butler and Escobar entered the postseason with career batting averages of .424 and .409 versus Peavy, respectively, and both players collected run-scoring hits against him in Game 2. Cain also collected two hits in three at-bats against Peavy.
The Royals also know that Peavy never has pitched well at Kauffman Stadium, with a 1-5 record, 6.42 ERA, eight home runs allowed and .898 opponents' OPS in 40.2 career regular-season innings (seven starts).
Therefore, expect Royals hitters to go on the attack against Peavy in Game 6 as they did in Game 2, swinging early in the count while also putting pressure on the right-hander to throw quality strikes.
Giants: Cash In with Runners in Scoring Position vs. Yordano Ventura
Yordano Ventura has allowed nine earned runs between his three starts and one relief appearance this October, and eight of those runs have resulted from situations with runners in scoring position. That trend offers stark contrast to Ventura's regular-season numbers, when he held opposing hitters to a .616 OPS and five home runs when pitching with runners in scoring position, and a .651 OPS with men on base in general.
Left-handed batters also have fared well against Ventura in this postseason—they didn't during the regular season—as they're collectively hitting at a .343 clip and account for 12 of the 20 hits he's allowed.
The Giants had eight hits against Ventura over 5.1 innings in Game 2, but the team went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position overall and stranded eight baserunners. Since then, however, the Giants are 10-for-33 with runners in scoring position over the last three games.
With a ratio of 10 strikeouts to four walks in the postseason, Ventura is at least going to be around the plate in Game 6, so expect the Giants to work counts in their favor and sit on fastballs. At the same time, it wouldn't be surprising to see their approaches change the second time through the order if Ventura is commanding his secondary offerings.
Royals: Yordano Ventura Being Able to Locate His Secondary Pitches
Yordano Ventura dominated the Los Angeles Angels in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, allowing one run on five hits over seven strong innings. The 23-year-old right-hander wasn't as sharp in his subsequent start, as he surrendered four runs in 5.2 innings to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS before departing the game with discomfort in his right shoulder.
However, Ventura addressed concerns about his health by firing 5.1 innings of two-run ball against the Giants in Game 2 of the World Series. His control once again was off, though, especially with the changeup and curveball, as he yielded eight hits (one home run).
Speaking of home runs, Ventura has allowed three of them this October in just 18.1 innings—this coming after he allowed 0.7 long balls for every nine innings pitched during the regular season.
However, manager Ned Yost isn't worried about Ventura's recent up-and-down performances headed into a win-or-go-home Game 6.
"His confidence is just staggering," Yost said, via Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. "I mean, you walk in that clubhouse, and he looks you square in the eye with that glint that says, 'I'm ready for this.' ... With him, there is zero nervousness. I know he's going to go out and compete and do his best, and we'll take whatever comes with that."
Therefore, expect Ventura, with the guidance of catcher Salvador Perez, to emphasize keeping the ball down in the zone early in the game.
Giants: How Many Times Can Jake Peavy Make It Through KC's Lineup?
The Royals' aggressiveness against Peavy early in the count in Game 2 was noticeable, especially on the first and second pitches. Peavy's velocity and stuff have declined in recent years, and it's forced him to more or less reinvent himself as a strike thrower, attacking the strike zone early in counts as opposed to vying for whiffs with pitches off the plate.
From 2010 through the present, the right-hander has averaged just 2.4 walks per nine innings during the regular season.
Unfortunately for Peavy, opposing hitters also know that he's going to come at them early in an at-bat, which is why they've collectively batted .328/.333/.542 against his first pitch in 1,000 career regular-season plate appearances. They've also had overwhelming success against Peavy's second pitch in an at-bat, posting an .869 OPS in 1-0 counts and .770 OPS in 0-1 counts.
As previously mentioned, Kansas City's hitters knocked Peavy around early in Game 2, scoring runs in the first two innings on five total hits. However, the right-hander settled down after that, even retiring 10 straight batters through the fifth inning.
But the wheels fell off for Peavy in the sixth inning when the Royals lineup turned over for a third time, as he surrendered a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain and followed with a walk to Eric Hosmer before departing the game. In general, facing a lineup for the third and fourth time has been a problem for Peavy throughout his 13-year career:
- First plate appearance: .642 OPS (.279 BABIP)
- Second plate appearance: .668 OPS (.276 BABIP)
- Third plate appearance: .736 OPS (.297 BABIP)
- Fourth plate appearance: .745 OPS (.360 BABIP)
The Giants bullpen has proved to be vulnerable in the middle innings—save for when Yusmeiro Petit is on the mound—so the team really needs Peavy to hang around as long as possible. Ideally, he lasts at least five innings.
Royals: The Return of Billy Butler
With the series shifting back to Kansas City, the Royals will once again have the luxury of inserting right-handed-hitting Billy Butler in the middle of the lineup. And with Jake Peavy set to take the mound for the Giants in Game 6, the timing couldn't be better.
Butler was 1-for-2 with an RBI against Peavy in Game 2, which raised his career average against the veteran right-hander to .429 in 35 at-bats to go along with three home runs and nine RBI.
"You know, this is the postseason, so the other experiences really don't come into play," Butler said of his success against Peavy, via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.
"I know what he's featuring. I know he's got good off-speed breaking stuff, and he's got a good sinker. I know in that situation right there that in the past that I've hit his fastball well at times, that he's going to try to stay down and away from me and try to make me hit his pitch."
Beyond Butler's success against Peavy, his return to the lineup, batting after left-handed Eric Hosmer, could force Giants manager Bruce Bochy to play matchups with his bullpen earlier in games. Meanwhile, the possibility of Butler reaching base in the late innings should give Ned Yost more opportunities to deploy his baserunning monsters, Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore.
Giants: The Return of Michael Morse
Michael Morse has made only 14 plate appearances this October, but it's hard to find a player who's made more of his opportunities.
Beyond simply posting a .385 batting average (5-for-13), Morse launched a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. He came up big off the bench once again with an RBI double in Game 3 of the World Series.
But Morse's career splits suggest he's better off starting, which he'll do in Game 6 as San Francisco's designated hitter.
Consider that Morse hit .225 with a .307 OBP and a .450 slugging mark in his first at-bats against pitchers in a given game. The second time he faced those pitchers within the same game, his slash line jumped to .393/.430/.643.
Morse's career numbers tell a similar story, with his slugging percentage rising from .490 the first time he sees a starter to .509 the second time, .513 the third time and .760 the fourth. That may not be terribly unique, as pitchers tend to tire deep in games, while hitters gain the advantage of familiarity. But it is still telling.
Lastly, Morse owns strong numbers between his two trips to the postseason in 2012 and 2014, with a .313/.333/.531 batting line, three extra-base hits and five RBI in 32 at-bats.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.