It wasn't a very big lead. Not a very long one either. But when Brandon Belt ripped a double to tie the game in the fourth, Kansas City's scoreboard advantage was gone.
When the Royals finally did fall from their magic carpet on Tuesday night, most everyone's reaction was to take a step back, from the players, to the fans, to the media members who picked them in some sort of public forum. One win doesn't finish a series. And it definitely isn't enough to give up on a previously perfect postseason run. But it did mean game two was really, really important.
So when Belt strolled into scoring position with just one out in the fourth, Kauffman Stadium was nervous. For the first time since Brandon Moss ripped a three-run home run in the single-elimination wildcard game, the fans inside "The K" were genuinely nervous. But then something happened that wasn't supposed to happen.
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Michael Morse flew out lazily to right field and the Royals got sloppy. Nori Aoki's throw went wide of Yordano Ventura, skipped off of his glove and got away. While Aoki took the brunt of the blame for a poor throw, he probably didn't expect a pitcher to try and cut if off.
But who deserved the blame for the shaky execution of a routine play became a moot point before it could even become a point at all when Ventura raced to the ball, looked up, and pegged out Belt as he retreated to the bag. With the go-ahead run erased, the two teams swapped places on the field tied at 2.
Shift in atmosphere
The unexpected escape shifted the crowd's nervousness to exultation. And that's significant when a crowd is made up of 40,000 people watching a World Series game in Kansas City. The nervousness never came back. And with a 7-2 win, the Royals ensured fans at AT&T Park will see three more baseball games.
KC gave it's trio of bullpen aces the lead they needed, just in time. Billy Butler singled home Lorenzo Cain; Sal Perez shot the gap in left center for two; and then Omar Infante capped the sixth inning with a two-run homer. With three innings left to play, the Royals had a five-run lead and Ned Yost didn't mess around.
After using Kelvin Herrera to get the last two outs in the sixth, Yost brought his seventh inning man out for, well, the seventh inning. And Herrera pitched around a couple of walks to complete his 1.2 scoreless.
Wade Davis finished a tidy eighth with a pair of strikeouts. It was Davis' tenth full inning in the postseason, and the sixth time one went 1-2-3.
Then the closer came into the game to negotiate a situation that didn't offer the reward of an "S" at the end. Greg Holland gave up a hit, but struck out the side to even the series. And while watching the best bullpen in baseball hold a five-run lead may have been described as fun by at least a fan or two at Kauffman Stadium, there are likely more than a few Royals fans looking forward to their team having a turn to make the other guys nervous. And now, it's a best of five. Enjoy, San Francisco.
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