KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The stakes weren’t nearly as high this time, but the 2014 World Series rematch between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals still had plenty of drama.
The Royals and Giants met for the first time since Madison Bumgarner and the Giants defeated the Royals in Game 7 on Tuesday at Kaufman Stadium, and there was definitely a buzz at the ballpark. And it lasted into extra innings. Still, the ending had a somewhat familiar feel as the Giants walked away winners.
Joe Panik’s single with two outs in the 11th off Scott Alexander (0-1) scored Nick Hundley to give the Giants a 2-1 win, spoiling the series opener for the home crowd of 20,863. The Royals had opportunities in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th but couldn’t get the key hit.
In the 11th, the Royals had the tying run at second and go-ahead run at first, but Raul Mondesi struck out to end the game. Mondesi went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and is now hitting .114 on the season.
“We can talk about Mondesi until we’re blue in the face, but we were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We pick up one of those runs, we’re not even talking about it. In the big scheme of things Mondesi’s not the problem.”
The team’s lack of clutch hitting has been frustrating to the players, especially Eric Hosmer. Hosmer went 1 for 4 but couldn’t come through when he was up with runners on base in the eighth and 10th.
“There’s a lot of frustration,” Hosmer said. “I came up in some big situations there and couldn’t make the most of it.”
The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Whit Merrifield hit a leadoff home run off Giants starter Matt Cain. After being called up from Omaha earlier in the day to help jumpstart the Kansas City offense, Merrifield did his part, getting a hit and a couple walks.
Merrifield was not on that 2014 squad that lost to the Giants in seven games. In fact, he was not on the 2015 Royals team that reclaimed the crown. The versatile Merrifield made his big league debut last May and started at second, third, first, left and right.
Merrifield, however, partly due to a numbers crunch did not make this year’s team out of spring training and was sent to Triple-A. There he raked, hitting .412 with three home runs and nine RBIs, forcing the Royals to get his bat in the lineup.
Merrifield, a natural second baseman, started in right as Mondesi started at second base. It’s probably a good thing he did, as he saved the Royals in the sixth.
After a Hunter Pence single scored Panik to tie the game, the Royals averted further damage thanks to two defensive gems by Mondesi and Salvador Perez. With the bases loaded, Buster Posey hit a hot shot up the middle behind the bag at second.
Mondesi dove, knocked it down, and after bobbling it initially, he fired home. The throw, however, was off line, forcing Perez to lunge far to his right. Perez, though, snared it and reached back across his body, snow-coning the ball in his glove and tagged out Brandon Belt for the final out of the inning.
Cain pitched seven innings and gave up just four hits while Royals starter Jason Hammel went six-plus innings giving up one run on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts before giving way to the Royals bullpen.
This time the seventh inning did not bite the Royals, not that it was easy. After giving up back-to-back hits, Peter Moylan replaced Hammel and recorded a strikeout. Travis Wood then came on and gave up a walk but got a strikeout and a double play to end the inning.
Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless eighth despite giving up two hits and Kelvin Herrera worked the ninth.
In the eighth, the Royals loaded the bases with two outs but Hosmer grounded out to end the threat. In the ninth, Brandon Moss singled and Merrifield walked, but Mondesi struck out to end the frame.
Alexander worked around a two-out single and a walk in the 10th but the Royals again couldn’t score as Hosmer grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Derek Law (1-0) got the win, pitching two innings in relief and Mark Melancon picked up his third save. With the loss, the Giants (6-9) ended the Royals’ four-game winning streak. The Royals are now 6-7 on the season and things won’t get easier Wednesday when they face Bumgarner in the series finale.
“We’re not getting in great hitting counts,” Yost said. “And we’re swinging at pitches off the plate a little bit.”