MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Royals perfectly suited for National League style

American League champs' deep pitching staff, stellar defense play well against Senior Circuit

Royals perfectly suited for National League style

SAN FRANCISCO -- Quick, picture an American League team playing in a National League park. What comes to mind?

Maybe Nelson Cruz lurching back a couple steps toward the right-field wall in St. Louis as David Freese's drive carries over his head, with a championship on the line? Maybe the Tigers' pitchers firing the ball all around Busch Stadium? Maybe the Red Sox having to sit Mike Napoli and cross their fingers when they sent David Ortiz out as their first baseman.

Lots of things could flash in your memory, and few of them good. Between 2006 and '13, AL teams had gone 7-15 in NL parks during the World Series.

But these Royals aren't like any of those teams. They're probably better constructed to compete in the NL than their own league, and they showed it in beating the Giants, 3-2, in Game 3 under mild, breezy conditions on Friday night at AT&T Park.

  Date     Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 21     SF 7, KC 1 video
Gm 2 Oct. 22     KC 7, SF 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 24     KC 3, SF 2 video
Gm 4 Oct. 25     SF 11, KC 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 26     SF 5, KC 0 video
Gm 6 Oct. 28     KC 10, SF 0 video
Gm 7 Oct. 29     SF 3, KC 2 video

"This is the way our games have gone all year," manager Ned Yost said. "I'm getting really good at protecting a one-run lead, because a lot of times that's exactly what we have to deal with. But I have the necessary tools to be able to do that. It's not me doing it. It's the guys that we put out there that are doing it. We have the type of pitchers in our bullpen that can accomplish that."

As usual, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland strung up late-inning zeros, this time with some help from rookie Brandon Finnegan. They handed the Giants their first World Series loss in front of "the sea of orange," as winning pitcher Jeremy Guthrie called it, since the third game of the 2002 Series.

Having rebounded from a loss to Madison Bumgarner in the opener, the Royals lead the series, 2-1. They were last in the AL in home runs during the regular season yet have gone 51-24 since July 22.

Unlike many pennant winners in the AL, the Royals don't have to outslug you to beat you. Their remarkable fielding, especially in the outfield and behind the plate -- in addition to gunning down Hunter Pence trying to steal second base in the second inning, Salvador Perez made a great play handling a Gregor Blanco bunt -- combines with a deep pitching staff to give them the ability to win low-scoring games.

Perez's strong throw

Giants manager Bruce Bochy says the Royals' pitching is so good they may not miss playing without designated hitter Billy Butler. He concurred that they are really an NL team in AL clothing.

"They do the little things well," Bochy said. "Their defense played very well. We hit some balls hard. We couldn't find one to fall in. [Lorenzo] Cain made a couple of nice plays out there, but it always comes down to pitching. I don't care if you're in the National League or American League. If you pitch well, you probably have a chance to win the game."

The Royals' first four victories during this 10-1 postseason run came in extra innings, so don't expect them to blink if they play without a margin of error the next two games at AT&T Park.

"Hopefully, we can get a big lead and have a comfortable game," said Alex Gordon, whose sixth-inning double off Tim Hudson was the biggest hit of the game. "But it's probably not going to happen with these two teams. We kind of match up the same. Like Jeremy was saying, great bullpens, great pitching, and great defense. So I don't see why the other two, three, four games are going to be any different."

With the DH rule not in effect in the NL park, Yost reworked his lineup for the first time since his Sept. 13 overhaul. He started Jarrod Dyson in center field so he could move Cain to right field, giving him his best fielding unit. That meant that Nori Aoki joined Butler on the bench.

"Our focus here in this park, because it's a unique park, it's a big outfield, we're going to put our best defensive outfield out there," Yost said. "That's Gordon in left, Dyson in center, Cain in right. Those guys have been doing that all year long. They just cover all kinds of ground out there."

Cain's tough catch

Cain looked perfectly at home in right field, with his best moment coming when he ran to his right and made a sliding catch to take a double away from Travis Ishikawa. That was during a sequence in which seven of the Giants' first 10 outs came on fly balls to Dyson or Cain.

"I'm just trying to be a playmaker, no matter where I'm at -- center or right," Cain said. "Jeremy Guthrie, and all of our pitchers, they do such an amazing job, so we just pride ourselves on not letting balls fall."

Yost shuffled his batting order more than the minimum, moving Mike Moustakas from ninth to fifth and Gordon from sixth to second. That seemed a curious move with a hitter who was in an 0-for-17 slump before his double off Hudson, but there's no question how well Yost knows his team. He had Gordon in the exact right spot, as he contributed to all three Kansas City runs.

The most eye-catching managerial move of the game was Yost allowing Herrera to hit for himself in the seventh inning. It was a tough call, but Yost wanted to get through the seventh without using Davis, and he did that. Herrera, who had gotten three ground-ball outs in the sixth, started the seventh, and Finnegan came in for the last two outs.

Herrera's interesting at-bat

Dyson was on first base with two outs in the seventh, and Yost wouldn't have minded seeing him try to steal a base before Herrera struck out.

"Actually, I was hoping Dice would make an out there, but he steps up and foils my plan and gets a hit," Yost said. "So that's the way the National League game works."

Remember the Royals' speed? The team that ran wild on the A's and Angels to start the postseason is only 1-for-4 in stolen bases since the start of the AL Championship Series. Don't be surprised if they do some damage with steals the next two nights.

They've got lots of ways to win games, even when their designated hitter turns into a cheerleader.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.