5 years later, 3B coach talks not sending Gordon
Mike Jirschele looks back on making a key call in Game 7 of the World Series that still is talked about five years later
Game 7 of the 2014 World Series is considered a classic, with the Giants holding on against the Royals to win their third title in five years by a score of 3-2. The hero that night was World Series Most Valuable Player Madison Bumgarner, who pitched five innings of scoreless relief on two days rest after throwing a complete game shutout in a Game 5.
But the most indelible moment came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Royals left fielder Alex Gordon hit a line drive to left-center field that skipped past center fielder Grégor Blanco and went all the way to the wall. When left fielder Juan Perez booted the ball on the warning track, every person watching had exactly the same thought: “Were we about to witness a game-tying ‘Little League home run’ with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the World Series?”
As it turned out, we never got the answer. Gordon was held at third base by coach Mike Jirschele, and he was left stranded when Salvador Perez popped out to end the game. Did Jirschele make the right call? It’s unknowable, but five years after the fact, Jirschele explains his thought process in that moment and in the days that followed.
As told to Royals beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan.
When Alex Gordon came up, I was just thinking about the situation -- we were down 3-2, one out left. I was just hoping we could get something going, anything. I also was hoping Alex or the next guy up, Salvy, could maybe pop one out of the park. They were both capable. And Salvy already had taken Madison Bumgarner deep earlier in the series.
The outfield was playing no-doubles in the ninth, so they were pretty deep when Alex came up. I was just hoping Bumgarner would make one mistake and we would tie the game. But Bumgarner had been so tough on us.
So, Alex comes up and he hits a line drive to left-center. It was kind of a weak line drive that was dying pretty fast. My first thought was that Gregor Blanco, the center fielder, had a chance to catch it in the air. But he was a little too overaggressive, which was kind of surprising. I could see as the ball got near him it was going to drop. Then I see the ball keeps rolling past Blanco. Then I thought, “OK, Gordo will get two now.” Then Juan Perez fumbled it at the warning track. That’s when your heart starts racing a little. At that point Gordo already had two and now he was coming to third.
At that point your coaching instincts just kick in. Your first thought is that with Gordo coming to third, we’d have a chance to score him if the relay throw to [shortstop] Brandon Crawford is a little off-line or if it skips in and he can’t handle it. As I’m watching the relay, I’m also looking at Gordo and where he is. We all knew Crawford had an above-average arm and above-average accuracy. I was really hoping for a bad throw, even though Gordo was really starting to run out of gas. Those were my reads, and I’m just praying for any kind of a bad throw.
Well, the throw comes into Crawford on one hop, but he fields it perfectly. Now I’m watching to see if he fumbles the exchange at all. But he didn’t. Gordo had just gotten to third base and Crawford had made the exchange cleanly and he was only about 25-to-30 feet past the infield. I knew then we had no chance, so I held Gordo up. With that much of an accurate arm, I never thought twice about sending him. He would have had no chance.
I know that the World Series would have ended in a rundown if I had sent him. Gordo would have stopped running near home or he would have just gotten tagged out standing up. I would have been crucified for that. And somebody else would have been coaching third base in the 2015 World Series, which we fortunately won.
I just wasn’t going to give them an easy out to end the game. I mean, I knew Salvy was on deck. If I truly felt it would have taken a really good throw or a perfect throw to get Gordo out, I would maybe have taken that chance and sent him. But I knew it wasn’t even going to be close.
I remember Gordo saying to me as he stood on the bag, “Do you think I could have scored?” And I said, “No chance.” And he said, “Good.” Gordo trusted me. And people know I’m an aggressive sender, but he would have needed to be at least halfway home or three-quarters home to send him with Crawford’s arm and accuracy. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I would have sent someone as fast as Jarrod Dyson in that situation, not with Crawford having the ball where he did.
After Salvy popped out, I went into the clubhouse and no one really said anything about it. Everyone was just let down that we lost. I remember a couple of reporters then came up and asked me about it, and then a bunch more did. I didn’t realize it might become “a thing.” I remember the following spring, [bench coach] Dale Sveum coming up to me and saying, “You would have been an effing idiot to have sent him.”
But the funniest thing came the next morning, and I’ve never shared this with anyone. I was going to Supercuts or some place to get my hair cut -- this is back when I still had hair. Anyway, the girl cutting my hair asks me if I saw the game last night. And I said yes. Then she said, “He should have sent him.” And I said, “Oh, I don’t think so. He was going to be out.” And she said, “Yeah, but they might have thrown it into the stands or something. Should have sent him.” Inside, I’m just laughing.
I never told her who I was.