Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead

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There was much hagiography about the Royals’ bullpen, and for good reason. During the second half of the regular season, only four teams’ bullpens posted an ERA better than the Royals’ 2.87. The back end of Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA), Wade Davis (1.00), and Greg Holland (1.44) was nearly unhittable. According to Inside Edge, the Royals lapped the competition when it came to throwing heat, registering 2,287 pitches at 97 MPH or above.

So no one was exactly surprised when the Royals’ bullpen held the Giants hitless for four innings once starter Jeremy Guthrie departed. Herrera did struggle, walking two, but recorded four outs before giving way to lefty Brandon Finnegan, who retired both batters he faced. In the eighth, Davis flashed his high-90’s fastball and a devastating curve to strike out two of the three batters he faced. And in the ninth, with the Giants needing one run, Holland retired Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence in order to end the game and notch the save.

The Royals hit the scoreboard early thanks to Alcides Escobar doubling to start the ballgame, then coming around to score after a pair of ground outs. In the sixth, the Royals tacked on two more runs against Giants starter Tim Hudson to make it 3-0 when Alex Gordon doubled to center field to drive in Escobar, and Eric Hosmer lined a single to center against reliever Javier Lopez to score Gordon.

The Giants finally mounted an offensive attack against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie in the bottom of the sixth. Guthrie had retired 10 batters in a row, but Brandon Crawford singled to lead off the frame and promptly scored when Mike Morse ripped a double down the left field line. Manager Ned Yost relieved Guthrie with Kelvin Herrera, but the right-hander had trouble finding the strike zone, walking Gregor Blanco. Following the Royals’ M.O., the Giants then used a pair of ground outs to score Morse, making it 3-2. But that was it for the Giants, unable to handle the Royals’ relievers.

Guthrie got the win (the first post-season victory of his career), allowing the two runs on four hits with no walks and no strikeouts in five innings. Hudson got the loss, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

The Royals take their 2-1 World Series lead into Saturday night’s Game 4. Lefty Jason Vargas is slated to oppose right-hander Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong could be scratched if the Giants decide to start Madison Bumgarner on short rest instead.

Update: Vogelsong is starting Game 4 for the Giants, Bochy says, via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.

Giants sign Darin Ruf to minor league contract

Darin Ruf
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The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reports that the Giants have signed 1B/OF Darin Ruf to a minor league contract.

Ruf, 33, played parts of five seasons in the majors with the Phillies from 2012-16, enjoying occasional offensive success. He spent the last three seasons in the KBO League in South Korea with the Samsung Lions, reigniting his career. Ruf hit an aggregate .313/.404/.564 with 86 home runs and 350 RBI over 1,756 plate appearances.

Ruf joins an ever-increasing list of players whose major league careers fizzled out, then found new life overseas — Eric Thames and Miles Mikolas are a couple of examples. Ruf will hope to prove himself as a big leaguer once more in spring training with the Giants.