KANSAS CITY – The celebration was over before it really began Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Can the Royals get the party started again?
That’s a legitimate question after the Giants spoiled the fun for the home team, and a hyped-up sellout crowd, with a 7-1 victory in Game 1 of the World Series.
Losing the opener of this best-of-seven matchup isn’t devastating in and of itself. But consider: The Royals hadn’t dropped a game since Sept. 27. They were the first team to go undefeated through eight playoff games to advance to the World Series. And they’d trailed on the scoreboard in just three of the previous 72 innings they had played leading into Tuesday.
To watch the Giants command a 3-0 lead off ace James Shields in the top of the first had to be a shock to all those wearing blue and white – on the field and in the stands.
“It was special to have a World Series game here at Kauffman Stadium,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “Obviously it didn’t work out the way we wanted. But we knew this wasn’t going to be easy, so we’ll see what we’re made of.”
The Royals had the man they wanted on the hill as they began play in their first World Series since 1985. But Shields, who hadn’t pitched in 11 days, was hit hard by the Giants from the get-go. He was gone by the fourth, another black mark on a playoff resume in which the right-hander has posted a 5.74 ERA over 10 starts.
Was he feeling the effects of the long layoff, a time during which he experienced health complications from passing a kidney stone? Royals catcher Salvador Perez said he didn’t believe that was a factor. But Perez didn’t expect Shields to struggle so much with his fastball command either.
“That was a surprise to me,” Perez said. “You don’t see him doing that.”
So the storyline has shifted dramatically after just nine innings of the Fall Classic. The Royals took the field appearing like they might be a team of destiny given how they’ve pulled out so many nail-biters in this postseason.
Now, they turn to 23-year-old rookie starting pitcher Yordano Ventura for Wednesday’s Game 2. He’ll oppose the Giants’ Jake Peavy.
For all the talk about the Royals’ march through the American League playoff bracket, consider this: The past four teams to have swept the A.L. Championship Series went on to lose the World Series.
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Tuesday’s game was reminiscent of 2007. The Colorado Rockies went 7-0 to earn the right to represent the National League in the World Series that year. Their momentum lasted all of one game, as the Boston Red Sox’s Josh Beckett limited them to one run over seven innings in the opener and the Sox wound up sweeping the Rockies in four.
No one in the Royals clubhouse was pushing the panic button after Tuesday’s game.
“It’s just one loss,” designated hitter Billy Butler said. “We just didn’t start off right. It’s just how it is. We’ve had games like that this year and we’ve bounced back. That’s what this team does.”