Rookie southpaw's shutdown effort sparks Royals' victory in Game 3
By Aaron Leibowitz
SAN FRANCISCO -- In the seventh inning of a one-run game on Friday night, Royals left-hander Brandon Finnegan strolled to the back of the mound, removed his cap, wiped his forehead and looked out at the right-field foul pole -- the same sequence he follows every time he prepares to face opposing hitters.
The 21-year-old, who was pitching for Texas Christian University in June, made history as the first to play in both the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same year.
"I feel like I'm still in college. Obviously not," said Finnegan, who fired a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in helping the Royals earn a 3-2 win over the Giants in Game 3. "I just take it as it's no different, and that's helping me out a lot -- taking it like it's still college baseball, facing hitters. It's no different. It's still baseball."
There were, of course, several differences. More than 43,000 fans filled AT&T Park, and one mistake could have allowed the Giants to grab the upper hand in the biggest baseball competition on the planet.
After six postseason appearances, the southpaw is beginning to look like an old pro, "like he's had five, seven years in the league," according to third baseman Mike Moustakas. But Finnegan admitted to feeling some jitters on Friday. Catcher Salvador Perez helped guide him through it, making a visit to the mound before each batter he faced. What did he tell him?
"Throw your stuff," Perez said. "He's got pretty good stuff. Focus on my glove."
The rookie appreciated the guidance.
"That's what a leader does," Finnegan said. "He comes out there and he takes control. And he did. He knew I was gonna have a little nerves, a little adrenaline running, because this place is pretty crazy. But he led me well."
Finnegan was followed in the eighth and ninth by righties Wade Davis and Greg Holland, and they slammed the door shut as usual. But even the dominant Holland, who tied the postseason record with his seventh save, could not picture himself retiring hitters on this stage when he was 21.
"I wasn't good enough," said Holland, now 28. "I think composure comes from trusting yourself and realizing that you can get outs. That's something that I've had to learn and I'm still trying to get better at. He's pretty mature mentally, for sure."
To keep that cool demeanor, Finnegan is doing all he can to avoid getting caught up in the moment. That's meant refusing to stop and soak it all in.
"Once the season's over and I'm back home just hanging out, I probably will," Finnegan said. "Until then, I've still got a lot of work to do."
Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.