A solid bullpen and strong defense have the Royals within two victories of a World Series championship.
Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Finnegan, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined to throw four no-hit innings of relief, as Kansas City edged the San Francisco Giants, 3-2, in Game 3 of the Fall Classic.
Run-scoring hits from Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer in the sixth inning provided the visitors with a 3-0 lead, and the Royals held on after the Giants broke through with two runs against Jeremy Guthrie in the home sixth.
Holland closed the door by retiring the side in order to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
It was Holland’s seventh save of this year’s playoffs, tying a single-season mark that is shared by John Wetteland (1996), Troy Percival (2002, Angels), Robb Nen (2002, Giants), Brad Lidge (2008, Phillies) and Koji Uehara (2013, Red Sox).
Game 4 is Saturday, again at AT&T Park. Jason Vargas starts for the Royals, and Ryan Vogelsong toes the rubber for the Giants.
There was a thought that the Giants would go with Madison Bumgarner on Saturday instead of Vogelsong.
“It’s our confidence in the guy we have going tomorrow,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of staying with Vogelsong. “We’re keeping things in order because of how well all our starters have thrown.”
Guthrie (1-0) allowed four hits, while Giants starter Tim Hudson (0-1) was charged with four hits and three runs over 5 2/3 innings.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Hudson said. “They just did the little things to beat us.”
The Royals won Friday’s game with timely hitting, a stellar bullpen and sharp glove work.
Hudson had essentially been matching Guthrie until the sixth inning. Two hits from Alcides Escobar, though, made a huge difference for the Royals. Escobar hit the game’s first pitch off the wall in left field. He advanced on Gordon’s groundout to first, then scored on Lorenzo Cain’s bouncer to shortstop.
“That was just fighting and battling to get Escobar in. It was a great start,” Cain said.
Hudson, making his first World Series appearance, retired 12 consecutive batters until Escobar rolled a single into center field with one out in the sixth inning. Gordon then drilled a one-hop double off the wall in center to plate the game’s second run.
Gordon had been in an 0-for-17 slump this postseason.
Javier Lopez entered from the bullpen with two outs, but Hosmer, who was celebrating his 25th birthday Friday, hit a liner on the 11th pitch of his at- bat past the reliever’s glove into center field. Gordon scored without a throw to the plate for a 3-0 KC lead.
The Giants hadn’t scored since the fourth inning of Game 2’s 7-2 loss Wednesday, but finally broke through in the home sixth. Guthrie had set down 10 straight batters until Brandon Crawford singled to right to start the frame. Pinch-hitter Michael Morse doubled down the left-field line to plate Crawford.
“Guthrie threw the ball extremely well the first five innings,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I just wasn’t going to take any chances. I was going to go with my bullpen.”
Herrera was called upon, but he walked Gregor Blanco on four pitches. Joe Panik hit a chopper to the mound, and the out at first allowed both runners to move into scoring position. Buster Posey’s grounder to second plated San Francisco’s second run, but Pablo Sandoval grounded out to first to end the inning.
Hunter Pence walked to begin the home seventh, but Brandon Belt struck out and then Finnegan retired the next two batters.
With Davis on the mound, Blanco tried bunting for a hit in the eighth, but Salvador Perez jumped up from behind the plate, flipped off the mask and threw to first base to get a sliding Blanco.
Earlier, the Royals used their solid defense to keep the Giants at bay. After Belt singled to center in the second, Guthrie got out of the inning when Cain made a diving grab of a ball hit by Travis Ishikawa to right field.