Here are five reasons not to count out the Royals:
1. Been here, done that.
It was exactly four weeks ago when the Royals overcame late deficits of 7-3 and 8-7 to beat the A's in the 12-inning American League Wild Card Game. Something happened that night to a Royals club that, frankly, had a ho-hum regular season, outside of August. Something indescribable. A lot of growing up occurred as the evening evolved, both for a lineup that leans predominantly young and a manager who came out of the game with a greater sense of the urgency needed when managing on the postseason stage (yes, Yost freely admits he probably should have gone with Kelvin Herrera over Yordano Ventura in the sixth).
Confidence is king in this game. Even most of us who appreciate evaluative metrics can respect that basic human element. And a Royals club that fought valiantly to the finish of a do-or-die game in the first round of this postseason figures to do so again tonight.
2. No Bumgarner.
Well, at least not in a starting role. Bruce Bochy said he doubts he'd summon Bumgarner out of the bullpen in Game 6 (anything goes if there's a Game 7), but it is worth keeping in mind that either day -- the second or third day after a start -- would normally function as his "throw day" between starts. So it's not inconceivable for Bumgarner to come out for an inning as soon as Game 6, especially if Jake Peavy gets a quick hook.
But that's precisely the point: Peavy is a great matchup for the Royals. We can note his career 4.97 ERA against them, but little of that is applicable to this specific situation. More accurately, we can point to the way the Royals scored two early runs off him in Game 2 and then knocked him out of the game the third time through the order -- a notoriously perilous period for Peavy, whose OPS against is .933 the third time around. Game 6 could be ripe for the Royals to grab a lead if the bats and Yordano Ventura execute.
Game 7 could be another opportune matchup for the Royals, as Tim Hudson has surrendered seven runs on 11 hits over 12 innings in his past two starts.
Yes, the Giants have ways to shorten the game, with long man Yusmeiro Petit and possibly with Bumgarner. But the Royals do have the opportunity to strike early.
3. They're home.
Past performance does not always indicate future results, especially when that performance doesn't even involve the team in question. But the stats in this regard are actually pretty interesting. Eight of the past 10 teams to go home down 3-2 in a World Series wound up winning it all. Furthermore, only four road teams have won a Game 6 since 1980: the '81 Dodgers, '92 Blue Jays, '97 Indians and '03 Marlins.
This might sound nuts, but given the looming volume of the Kauffman crowd and the nothing-to-lose nature the Royals have played with throughout October, the pressure in Game 6 might actually be on the Giants. After all, 14 of the past 15 teams in a World Series or League Championship Series that lost Game 6 after hitting the road with a 3-2 lead wound up losing Game 7, too.
4. The HDH factor.
Two-thirds of the Herrera-Wade Davis-Greg Holland threesome (Herrera and Davis) buckled a bit in Game 5, when they weren't able to keep the game close in the late innings. It didn't really matter, given the way Bumgarner was pitching, but it was still a strange sight.
Monday's off-day, though, was undoubtedly beneficial to the three relievers Yost has (rightly) leaned so heavily upon. All of them approached Yost before Game 5 and said they were willing to go multiple innings, if necessary, and Yost might just have to take one or two or them up on that offer in Game 6. Bet on the large sample over the small: These guys have delivered all year, and it's easy to expect them to deliver again if the Royals can hand them a sixth-inning lead.
5. The normal lineup.
Yost had been a slave to consistency most of the year, but he debuted a new lineup on Sept. 21, going with more speed at the top of the order with Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain in the Nos. 1-3 spots, moving Omar Infante and Mike Moustakas down and bringing back Billy Butler from his bench exile. From that day through Game 2 of this Series, the Royals averaged 4.83 runs per game. Say what you will about the overrated nature of lineup construction, but when guys buy into their roles, it can have a tangible impact on outcomes.
It's not enough to say getting Butler off the bench to be the designated hitter in the shift back to American League rules is going to instantly propel a lineup that suddenly sagged midway through Game 4 and then all of Sunday night against Bumgarner. But Butler's bat definitely helps, as does the total package that comes with the more stable look to the lineup (Aoki will also be back in action in place of Dyson). Also, Yost should be in a better position to maneuver in-game now after the baffling double-switch decision he made in Game 5.