Royals may discover Bay has comforts of home
Facing three straight games at AT&T Park, the Royals will find the Giants' home has a familiar feel that could bode well for their chances in San Francisco.
After starting the AL Division Series in Anaheim, then the AL Championship Series in Baltimore, the Royals opened the World Series with home-field advantage vs. the Giants at Kauffman Stadium. Now the Fall Classic shifts gears -- and ballparks -- for Friday night's Game 3 (air time, 6:30 CT/first pitch, 7 CT, on FOX), with no DH and pitchers at the dish.
But due to the similarity of the opponents, the location of the games could be less of a factor than how it was initially perceived in the ALCS.
The main concern for the Royals, before they swept the Orioles, was the stark contrast between the teams in the way they approached scoring runs -- Kansas City finished 30th in home runs in the regular season (95), while Baltimore topped MLB with 211 dingers -- and how the ballparks played -- Kauffman Stadium averaged an 0.868 home run factor in the 2013 and '14 seasons (23rd in MLB), while Camden Yards averaged a 1.172 HR factor (sixth). Home run factor compares the rate of homers at home vs. their rate on the road, with 1.00 being average.
But that disparity doesn't hold for the two pennant winners.
The Giants checked in at 17th in home runs this season, and before they hit three homers in the decisive Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, the Giants had gone homerless in their previous six postseason games. They've gone deep in the first inning of both World Series games -- with Hunter Pence's two-run shot and Gregor Blanco leadoff long ball. Still, AT&T Park allowed an MLB-low 0.677 HR factor this year, while Kauffman Stadium checked in eight spots higher at 0.843.
"It's good to be home," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "But we're not going to change how we play the game, and I'm sure they're not either. Every game is important when you're in a Series."
Royals manager Ned Yost tends to agree, seeing the similarities in the two clubs.
"The San Francisco Giants," said Royals manager Ned Yost, "they're a lot like us."
While it makes sense that the extra real estate would benefit a rangy Royals outfield, AT&T Park offers some strange quirks, including a small amount of room to maneuver in right field; a dauntingly high-angled wall in right; then a seemingly endless power alley in right-center.
"I think our speed in the outfield as a whole is going to be a benefit to us," said Royals outfielder Josh Willingham, who's played 16 games at AT&T Park. "It's not as big an outfield as we have here when you factor in the short porch in right field."
While a good majority of the starters will make their first appearance at AT&T Park, Kansas City's success on the road this season bodes well. The Royals finished 47-34 away from Kauffman Stadium in the regular season and 9-2 in their last 11 games, postseason included.
They also had success in some of the stingiest ballparks for home runs. Excluding Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City is 13-9 at parks that rank in the bottom 10 in ballpark factors this season. And the NL style of play with no DH? If anything, the Royals have saved their best for the Senior Circuit, going 8-2 at NL parks and 15-5 overall in Interleague Play while outscoring NL teams, 99-56.
"It will be new to us, but it will be something we adjust to quick," said first baseman Eric Hosmer.