Final out takes Giants outfielders off the hook
Bumgarner picks up Blanco, Perez after misplay on Gordon's ninth-inning hit
KANSAS CITY -- The baseball bounced clear past Gregor Blanco, a miracle-in-the-making for the millions of Royals fans waiting nearly three decades for a spark. It scooted to the wall, where Juan Perez kicked it far enough away for Alex Gordon to race to third. "Oh my God, this is happening," Blanco thought to himself Wednesday night as the Royals gasped for one last breath in World Series Game 7.
Then Madison Bumgarner popped up Salvador Perez, transforming what could have been one of the most memorable World Series gaffes in history into a footnote. The Giants won, 3-2. No one flinging champagne in the postgame clubhouse was more relieved than Blanco.
"I just tried to make it interesting," he said, laughing. "It worked. We had Bumgarner on the mound, two outs, we just needed one out. And we did it. We're world champions."
With the bases empty and two outs in the ninth, Blanco stood ready if needed to make the last out of the season. Perez, who earned a rare start in left on the merits of his defense -- a decision that paid dividends four innings earlier, when he made a key catch of Nori Aoki's line drive with a man in scoring position -- had been counting down since the sixth. Twelve outs to go. Now nine. Now six. Three. Two. One.
But the Royals were not ready to concede, as Gordon smacked a single back up the middle. Initially, Blanco thought he would be able to make a diving catch to end the World Series. But he shied away at the last moment, hoping to keep a potential force at second base intact. When he did, the ball bounced higher than anticipated, scooting past him and all the way to the wall.
That's when things grew frantic. Blanco ceased his pursuit of the ball, knowing Perez had a better angle than him. But Perez struggled to get a handle on it. By the time he did, Gordon was approaching second base and halting, in a play sure to be debated over burnt ends and ribs for years to come.
"I just felt there was no chance he was going to score on that," Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele said, corroborating Gordon's belief that he would not have crossed home safely. "Blanco misplayed the ball and as soon as it got by him, I got excited there. Then when [Perez] picked the ball up and dropped it, I was hoping he would do it one more time, because then we would have scored him."
"I wasn't expecting him to miss the ball," Perez said, "so it was kind of hard in the moment."
The Giants may not have escaped all trouble by that point, considering the tying run was standing 90 feet from home. But with Bumgarner pitching, they felt like they had. Standing in center, the potential for a lifetime of blooper reels -- think Bill Buckner, that sort of thing -- hovering over him, Blanco insisted he felt relaxed. He "didn't get low at all."
"Seriously," Blanco explained. "I know I'm a good outfielder and things like that are going to happen, because that's the last out of the World Series. You've always got to catch that ball. But at the same time, I said to myself, 'It happens, and now we've just got one more out to go.' Bum, I knew that he was going to get tougher and he did."
Bumgarner threw six consecutive fastballs to Perez, inducing a popup from one of the Royals' most dangerous hitters with the last one. And the Giants dog-piled on the field, Blanco in the middle of it.
"After I did it, after I let that ball by me, I let it go," Blanco said. "I said to myself, 'We just need one more out. Let's just get that out. We believe in each other.' I knew all the guys were going to back me up. This is a great team and we are family, so we did it and Bum did amazing."