These ten plays include some terrific defensive plays, the inciting plays for the biggest inning in Royals postseason history, and conclude with the greatest back-to-back exhibits of speed I have ever seen on a baseball diamond. We’ve climbed into lofty territory now, even if we’re not even halfway home.
Moment #: 130
Date: October 29, 2014
Game: 2014 World Series Game 7, vs. San Francisco Giants
Score: San Francisco 3, Kansas City 2, Bottom of the 5th
Situation: No outs, bases empty
Matchup: Omar Infante vs. Madison He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named
Summary: Omar Infante greets Madison He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, who had just come out of the bullpen in Game 7, with a single, sparking hopes of a Royals rally.
Link to video: Here.
Game 7 of the 2014 World Series would be the crowning achievement for Madison He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, coming out of the bullpen on two days’ rest and throwing five shutout innings while protecting a one-run lead the entire time. But we didn’t know that would be the case when he came into the game to start the bottom of the 5th inning. We knew that he had just thrown a shutout in Game 5, and allowed a single meaningless run in seven innings in Game 1, but those were both starts, on normal rest, with plenty of time to prepare along his normal routine. This was a relief appearance on short rest, and maybe he wouldn’t be in peak form.
And on his third pitch of the game, Omar Infante drilled a line drive to right field for a leadoff single. Suddenly it looked like the Royals might get to him after all; let us not forget that He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s career ERA in the 1st inning, 4.27, is 80 points higher than his ERA in any inning from the 2nd to the 7th. You can get to him early. Infante got to him right away, and it felt like the Royals were in business.
And then Alcides Escobar bunted Infante to second base.
I’m not certain that this was a mistake. Esky Magic notwithstanding, he’s a below-average hitter, and against a #1 starter you can make the case that a bunt there may increase the Royals’ odds of scoring one run in the inning. It no doubt reduced their odds of scoring more than one run, but with the Royals’ bullpen, and the stat fact that I wrote about in Moment #140, you could argue that tying the game is all the Royals should have been concerned about. But I may always wonder, given He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s documented first inning struggles, if this might not have been the time to go for the jugular - particularly since Escobar was ahead in the count 2-0 when he put the bunt down.
Instead, the Royals gave up one of their outs voluntarily. And then Nori Aoki batted, and hit another ball right on the screws toward the left field corner, and when it left the bat I thought the game was tied for sure. And then I turned and saw Juan Perez, who was starting over Travis Ishikawa for his defense, shaded perfectly – with the slashing opposite-field predilections of Aoki, Perez was set up waaaaay to the left of your typical left fielder. What should have been an easy double down the line turned into a fairly routine running catch. Lorenzo Cain struck out, and the Royals would not have another baserunner until there were two outs in the 9th.I loved keeping the bunt on with a 2-0 count there exactly as much as you would think I did.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 30, 2014
I thought the decision to bunt with Escobar, and especially the Giants’ outfield shifting against Aoki, would haunt me for the rest of my days. Instead it was about 12 months. And the next time the Royals faced a left-handed ace coming out of the bullpen in a winner-take-all playoff game, they would make him pay.