A look at the best-of-seven World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals:
Season Series: Royals won 3-0.
Giants: Center fielder Gregor Blanco (.260, 5 homers, 38 RBIs); second baseman Joe Panik (.305, 1, 18); catcher Buster Posey (.311, 22, 89); third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.279, 16, 73); right fielder Hunter Pence (.277, 20, 74); first baseman Brandon Belt (.243, 12, 27), designated hitter; Michael Morse (.279, 16, 61); left fielder Travis Ishikawa (.252, 3, 18 with Pirates and Giants); shortstop Brandon Crawford (.246, 10, 69).
Royals: Shortstop Alcides Escobar (.285, 3, 50, 31 steals); right fielder Nori Aoki (.285, 1, 43), center fielder Lorenzo Cain (.301, 5, 53, 28 steals); first baseman Eric Hosmer (.270, 9, 58); designated hitter Billy Butler (.271, 9, 66); left fielder Alex Gordon (.266, 19, 74); catcher Salvador Perez (.260, 19, 70); second baseman Omar Infante (.252, 6, 66); third baseman Mike Moustakas (.212, 15, 54).
Giants: Left-hander Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA, 219 strikeouts); right-hander Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73, 158 with Boston and San Francisco); right-hander Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57, 120); right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00, 151).
Royals: Right-hander James Shields (14-8, 3.21, 180 strikeouts); right-hander Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20, 159); left-hander Jason Vargas (11-10, 3.71, 128); right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (13-11, 4.13, 124).
Giants: Right-hander Santiago Casilla (3-3, 1.70, 19 saves); right-hander Sergio Romo (6-4, 3.72, 23 saves); left-hander Jeremy Affeldt (4-2, 2.28); left-hander Javier Lopez (1-1, 3.11); right-hander Jean Machi (7-1, 2.58); right-hander Hunter Strickland (1-0, 0.00); right-hander Yusmeiro Petit (5-5, 3.69 in 39 games, 12 starts); right-hander Tim Lincecum (12-9, 4.74 in 33 games, 26 starts).
Royals: Right-hander Greg Holland (1-3, 1.44, 46 saves); right-hander Wade Davis (9-2, 1.00); right-hander Kelvin Herrera (4-3, 1.41); left-hander Brandon Finnegan (0-1, 1.29); right-hander Jason Frasor (3-0, 1.53); left-hander Danny Duffy (9-12, 2.53 ERA in 31 games, 25 starts); left-hander Tim Collins (0-3, 3.86).
This marks the first World Series in a full season in which both teams won fewer than 90 games. One of them will become the sixth wild card to win a championship. The only other time both World Series participants were wild cards was 2002, when the Angels beat Barry Bonds and the Giants in seven games.
These clubs have met only 12 times in interleague play. The only opponent the Giants have faced fewer times is Tampa Bay, with nine. Kansas City hasn’t played in San Francisco since 2005. ... The Royals have won nine of the 12 meetings, including a three-game sweep at home this summer when they beat Bumgarner, Hudson and Lincecum, stealing seven bases in the finale. Shields pitched a four-hit shutout to beat Hudson on Aug. 9. Royals relievers didn’t allow a run in 6 1-3 innings. Gordon had two HRs and four RBIs in the series. Butler and Perez also homered for Kansas City. ... Posey will be tested by a team that led the majors with 153 stolen bases during the regular season and had 13 more in the playoffs. The Giants allowed 107 steals, tied for seventh-most in the majors. Posey threw out 17 of 76 potential base stealers. ... Bumgarner did a good job shutting down the running game, allowing seven stolen bases on 17 attempts. Nine of the 10 caught-stealings were started on pickoff throws by Bumgarner. Hudson allowed 15 steals on 18 attempts.
Pence is 0-for-11 in his career against Shields.
Butler (14-for-33 with 3 homers), Gordon (10-for-28) and Escobar (9-for-22) have all thrived against Peavy. Affeldt was a Royals draft pick in 1997 and spent his first 4 1/2 major league seasons with the team. ... Kansas City will have had five days off before the World Series opener, San Francisco four. ... The Royals have home-field advantage thanks to the American League’s victory in the All-Star game. The team with home-field advantage has won the last five World Series. ... The Giants opened as a slim favorite
Giants: After winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012, the Giants (88-74) are hoping to make every other year a pattern. San Francisco missed the playoffs after each of those championships but got back this season as the second NL wild card.
The Giants advanced by beating Pittsburgh 8-0 in the wild-card game behind a four-hitter from Bumgarner and a grand slam by Crawford. San Francisco then knocked off NL East champion Washington in four games in the NLDS, winning three one-run games and an 18-inning marathon during a low-scoring series that featured only 18 runs. After that, the Giants eliminated the Cardinals in the NLCS, winning it in Game 5 on Ishikawa’s three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was the first homer to end an NLCS and the first to send the Giants to the World Series since perhaps the most famous drive in baseball history: Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in a 1951 playoff against the Brooklyn Dodgers. ... The Giants went 243 plate appearances without a home run before hitting three in the clincher. ... Before the home run barrage, San Francisco had been the masters of small ball, with only 10 of its previous 22 runs scoring on hits. ... The Giants have won 15 of their past 17 postseason games under manager Bruce Bochy. ...
After relying on stellar pitching during their past two title runs, the Giants are more balanced this year, finishing fifth in the NL in runs and seventh in ERA. But the starting pitching stepped up in the playoffs, with a 2.40 ERA through 10 games. Petit has been a valuable long man out of the bullpen, too. ... Workhorse RHP Matt Cain made just 15 starts this year because of a season-ending elbow injury, and two-time Cy Young Award winner Lincecum was removed from the rotation. He has not pitched in the postseason. ...
Bumgarner is a threat at the plate, batting .258 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a .470 slugging percentage this season. The last pitcher to have more RBIs in a season was Mike Hampton with 16 in 2001 for Colorado.
Hudson will pitch in his first World Series at age 39 after being on teams that lost seven times in the Division Series. ... Morse has just six at-bats since Aug. 31 because of a strained oblique, but he hit a game-tying, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning of the NLCS clincher and could be used as the DH in Kansas City.
Royals: After ending a 29-year postseason drought, the Royals (89-73) had continued their winning ways with a perfect run through the playoffs to capture their third pennant. They rallied twice in the AL wild-card game for a thrilling 9-8 victory in 12 innings against Oakland, then won their first two ALDS games on the road against the Los Angeles Angels in 11 innings on homers by Moustakas and Hosmer. That made Kansas City the first major league team to win three straight extra-inning playoff games. The series clincher was much easier, an 8-3 victory at home for a three-game sweep of the Angels, who had the best regular-season record in the majors at 98-64.
In sweeping the ALCS against Baltimore, the Royals became won four close games against Baltimore to sweep the ALCS, making them the first team to open a postseason 8-0. Along the way, they’ve captivated a city starved for sports success. ... The Royals also took the last three games of the 1985 World Series against St. Louis, so they’ve won 11 consecutive postseason games — in a span of three decades. That’s one victory short of the major league record.
Kansas City wins with solid starting pitching, a nasty bullpen, daring on the base paths and sensational defense. Baseball fundamentals. In the regular season, KC was last in the majors with 95 homers but first with 153 steals. Then the Royals powered up in the playoffs, too. They hit eight home runs, including four by Moustakas and two by Hosmer. ... Finnegan pitched for TCU in the College World Series in June. ... The speedy Royals stole seven bases in the wild-card game against the A’s, including one that helped set up the tying run in the 12th inning.
Cain made a series of spectacular defensive plays throughout the playoffs and took home MVP honors after batting .533 with five runs in the ALCS. Gordon, Aoki, Moustakas, Escobar and reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson have also turned in a string of defensive gems. Throw in the clutch homers by homegrown hitters Hosmer and Moustakas, and the rollin’ Royals certainly have some serious October mojo going under Ned Yost, the first manager in major league history to win his first eight postseason games.
Lights Out Late: Both teams rely on stingy bullpens, so runs could be hard to come by in the late innings. Holland has six saves and a 1.13 ERA in eight postseason games for the Royals. Davis is 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA, and Herrera has a 1.08 mark in seven appearances. All three have struck out 10.
Bochy’s expert use of the bullpen has been key to the biggest reason for San Francisco’s remarkable October success. Affeldt has made 18 straight scoreless appearances in the postseason, Casilla 17 and Lopez 15. Affeldt and Lopez have been particularly tough on left-handed hitters, and Bochy will have to decide how to deploy them against Hosmer and Gordon, who have the dangerous Butler batting right-handed between them.
Big Game Bum: The 25-year-old Bumgarner has stepped forward as the staff ace. The NLCS MVP is 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 11 postseason games, matching Bob Gibson and Mike Mussina as the only pitchers with five straight postseason starts of at least seven innings with seven or fewer base runners allowed. Bumgarner has thrown 15 scoreless innings in World Series play, winning both his starts while striking out 14 and yielding five total hits. He went eight innings in the NLCS clincher and figures to get the ball in Game 1 on regular rest.
Big Game James: Shields is the rare Royals player with World Series experience. He pitched 5.2 scoreless innings for Tampa Bay in a 2008 win over Philadelphia. Kansas City traded a bevy of top prospects, including outfielder Wil Myers, to the Rays to acquire Shields before the 2013 season. But he went 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA in three playoff starts this month and is 3-4 with a 5.19 mark in nine career postseason outings.
Potent Panda: Sandoval has keyed San Francisco’s postseason offense since 2010, reaching base safely in a team-record 23 straight games. Kung Fu Panda is batting .375 with six homers and 14 RBIs during that span. That includes his three-homer performance in the 2012 World Series opener against Detroit on the way to MVP honors.
Managing Expectations: Looking for his third championship in five years, the understated Bochy is building a Hall of Fame résumé.
Over in the other dugout, Yost was once fired by Milwaukee in the middle of a September playoff race, and some of his curious decisions have exasperated Royals fans. Yost made all the right moves against Baltimore, though, and now he’s the toast of the town. With both bullpens stacked and the benches often in play, this could become an interesting chess match.
Karma, Baby: The Royals believe this is finally their time. They were counted out for much of the season, languishing below .500 on July 22. They were counted out again in the wild-card game before two late comebacks. Perhaps the same karma that won them Game 6 of the 1985 World Series — the infamous Don Denkinger call — is back for a franchise that was downtrodden for decades.
But nobody during this decade has owned October like the Giants — every other year, at least.
-- The Associated Press