SAN FRANCISCO -- Kansas City took charge of this World Series on Friday, but the Royals were exhibiting no exaggerated claims of confidence or undue displays of bravado after their 3-2 victory over the Giants in Game 3 at AT&T Park.
The Royals, though, might be in better shape than they dare to think after taking the Series lead, two games to one. Since the start of divisional play in 1969, teams winning the third game of the Fall Classic after splitting the first two have gone on to win the Series 16 of 19 times.
Yes, Eric Hosmer affirmed that the Royals do play with an abundance of heart and passion, but didn't leave the Giants out of that equation.
"It's really been showing the whole postseason. That team, too, they didn't go quietly," Hosmer said. "That's how these games are going to be. You have to have heart as a team and you've always got to count yourself in. We've been battling, battling the whole year and this is a huge win."
The Royals' master plan was to get six innings from starter Jeremy Guthrie with a lead and then turn the game over to their unbendable backend of the bullpen. Kelvin Herrera escaped a jam in the sixth and started the seventh. Rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan then proved to be the key ingredient to the usual late-inning mix in the bullpen, getting two big outs to end the seventh.
With a man on and one out, Finnegan relieved Herrera to face left-handed-hitting Travis Ishikawa. Bochy countered with right-handed-hitting Juan Perez, but Finnegan got him on a liner to left. After pushing the count to full, Finnegan whiffed Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford with a 95-mph sinker to end the inning, handing the ball to the dynamic duo of Wade Davis and Greg Holland, who recorded his record-tying seventh save of the postseason.
"We put up two in the sixth and they answered right away, but the bullpen came in and stopped that momentum on their side, shut the door and gave them no hope at the end," Hosmer said.
HOW THE ROYALS WON THE GAME
After Guthrie worked five scoreless innings and took a 3-0 lead into the sixth, the Giants finally caught up with him as Crawford led off with a single and scored on pinch-hitter Michael Morse's double down the left-field line.
Herrera, normally the custodian of the seventh inning, arrived early to relieve Guthrie and immediately walked Gregor Blanco. Then Herrera got three outs but, in the process, Morse was pushed across the plate for a 3-2 score. And Herrera's command seemed off.
"I was just trying to be too fine the first couple of pitches. That's what happened but I found myself again," Herrera said.
Here's where manager Ned Yost had to make a decision -- when the pitcher's spot came up in the seventh inning, should he let Herrera bat or use a pinch-hitter after Jarrod Dyson hit a two-out single? Yost believed in Herrera and let him bat for the first time in his pro career and he struck out.
"I knew that maybe they'd let me pitch the seventh so they'd let me hit," Herrera said. "Or I tried to."
After Herrera issued another walk and got a strikeout in the seventh, Yost began tinkering with his plan. Out went Herrera and in came Finnegan. That worked -- he got two quick outs to end the inning.
"I was nervous, but not too nervous," Finnegan said. "I was glad I got the job done so I can hand it off to Wade. After that, I knew we were going to win."
Sure enough, Davis pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts and Holland finished up with a 1-2-3 ninth.
"I don't know if there's a better bullpen," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "Because in that seventh, eighth and ninth inning, you've got a tough go when you're facing those guys."
The Giants ended up with just four hits.
THE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pesky Esky's first-pitch twitch:Alcides Escobar jumped on Tim Hudson's first pitch of the game, a letter-high fastball, and sent it to the base of the left-field wall for a double. He moved to third on Alex Gordon's groundout to first and scored as Lorenzo Cain bounced out to short for a quick 1-0 lead.
"When I went to home plate, I said, 'If he throws me a fastball right now, I'm going to swing the bat,'" Escobar said.
Birthday boy celebrates: Escobar started a two-run outburst in the sixth with a single up the middle. Gordon caught a Hudson sinker and drove it to the center-field wall, an RBI double that ended his 0-for-17 postseason skid.
After a second out, Hudson was relieved by left-hander Javier Lopez. Hosmer negotiated a 25th birthday present for himself, fouling off five of 11 pitches from Lopez before drilling a single to left, scoring Gordon for a 3-0 lead.
How does driving in the winning run rank as a birthday gift?
"No. 1, no question," Hosmer said. "I could've struck out six times in five at-bats. As long as we won, that's all I care about."
Defensive move pays dividends: Yost's decision to play Dyson in center field and move Cain to right in place of Nori Aoki paid off. Cain dashed over to the gap for Buster Posey's liner in the first inning and raced in to snare Ishikawa's drive in the second.
"I guess a lot of people are finding out how good our defense really is," Cain said.
UNSUNG HERO: SALVADOR PEREZ
Catcher Salvador Perez went without a hit, but contributed with his defense.
After Hunter Pence singled in the second inning, Perez cut him down trying to steal second base. In the seventh, he guided Finnegan through two key outs.
"That's what a leader does," Finnegan said. "He comes out there and he takes control. And he did. He knew I was going to have a little nerves, a little adrenaline running, because this place is pretty crazy. But he led me well."
And, in the eighth, when Blanco tried to get something going with a bunt, Perez sprang out to snatch the ball and fired to Hosmer to nail him at first base.
"I know Salvy -- he can make any play," said Escobar.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Guthrie became the first starter in World Series history to win without at least one strikeout or walk. Only four pitchers had previously earned a World Series victory without the aid of at least one strikeout. It last happened in 1960 with Bob Turley of the Yankees.
Holland is the sixth reliever to match the record of seven saves in a single postseason. With one more, he can own the record himself. The last to do it was the Red Sox's Koji Uehara last year.
This was the 15th one-run game of the postseason, which extended the single-season record. Both the 2011 and 2013 postseasons featured 13 one-run games.
Finnegan, the Royals rookie, became the first pitcher to appear in both the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same year. He pitched for TCU in the collegiate event.
Game 4 of the 110th Fall Classic is scheduled for Saturday, matching Royals left-hander Jason Vargas with Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. CT/8:07 p.m. ET, with FOX TV coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET.