By Sam McPherson

The Kansas City Royals had the San Francisco Giants right where they wanted them in Game Three of the 2014 World Series: trailing going into the late innings. In the endgame, it was vaunted Kansas City closer Greg Holland versus the heart of the Giants’ batting order in the ninth: catcher Buster Posey, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and right fielder Hunter Pence.

Eight pitches later, the Royals had a 3-2 victory — and a 2-1 World Series lead.

When the Fall Classic has been tied at one game apiece, the winner of Game Three has gone on to win the Series 37 times out of 55, but all this win does for Kansas City is guarantee that — at worst — the Royals might get to go home before this championship best-of-seven matchup is over.

No one counts the Giants out, obviously, but this is a strange place for this core group that has never even come close to trailing in a World Series before now.

The Royals scored a run in the first and two in the sixth — all off San Francisco starter Tim Hudson — to take a 3-0 lead, and the Giants battled back with two runs of their own off Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie in the bottom of the sixth. And then, it was all up to the Royals bullpen to make sure the lights went down in the city by the bay.

What the Royals Must Now Do in Game Four

This is a tough one; the worst Kansas City could do in these three games at AT&T Park was win one game. They’ve done that. Now, the pressure is off the Royals somewhat, and they can be even more aggressive in Game Four.

That means running on the base paths and taking some chances. They didn’t need to do those things in Game Three, because they scored enough runs off Hudson to get the mid-game lead and then win the game. With the lead, the Royals can get conservative. No more need to do that, perhaps.

In the end, Kansas City just needs to keep doing what it has been doing: playing stellar defense, getting clutch hitting and pitching lights-out baseball.

It’s pretty straight-forward, actually.

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What the Giants Must Now Do in Game Four

Win. It’s that simple.

If San Francisco can win Game Four, they know they have Madison Bumgarner on the mound for Game Five on Sunday night. And that favors the Giants. But they have to hit a little bit more, of course.

The heart of the San Francisco. order went 1-for-11 on Friday night, and that will have to improve. Pinch-hitter Michael Morse came through with the seeing-eye double in the sixth inning, but the Giants offense was mostly quiet in this one.

By the way, Sandoval had his postseason consecutive-games reaching base streak snapped, and that may be all you need to know about the San Francisco night.

What we do know definitively now is that the Giants won’t win the World Series this year in AT&T Park. If they beat the Royals in the Fall Classic, it’ll happen back in Kansas City.

Game Four Outlook

First off, the forecast is for rain on Saturday, so there is a chance that could impact the game. Second, the pitching matchup for Game Four definitely favors the visiting Royals.

It’ll be Jason Vargas (2.38 ERA this October in 11 1/3 innings) for Kansas City against Ryan Vogelsong (5.19 ERA this October in 8 2/3 innings). The Royals will look to bounce Vogelsong early and hand the game over to their bullpen again.

The Giants will look to scratch out runs and get their rhythm back: After scoring seven runs in Game One, San Francisco has scored just four runs in the last 18 innings of the World Series.

Expect another close game on Saturday night, just like Friday night. Whichever team gets the early lead will be in the driver’s seat, obviously.

Check out 5 Things You Missed from the World Series.

Check out other Playoff Pinch Hits.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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