Lorenzo Cain gearing up to run on Buster Posey. Pablo Sandoval trying to launch long balls, Alex Gordon banging into walls chasing them. Madison Bumgarner and James Shields starting big games, with lights-out bullpens poised to close ’em.
The playoff-perfect Kansas City Royals. The tried-and-tested San Francisco Giants.
A pair of wild cards, set to begin the World Series on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium in a matchup offering most everything a fan would want to watch. Tight, too, with the Giants opening as a slim favorite to win it all.
“They’re as hot as you can get,” Posey said, already a two-time champion with the Giants. “We were playing them earlier this year and they spanked us pretty good. We know we’re going to have our hands full with them.”
“They’re a dynamic team that pitches really well, really good defense. They’ve got pop, too, along with speed. We’ll definitely have our hands full,” he said.
So much on the field to savor on both sides. Plus, there probably will be room for some second-guessing — this week, Royals manager Ned Yost poked fun at those who earlier thought of him as “the dumbest guy on the face of the earth.”
A tasty treat, sure to get foodies debating: The vaunted Kansas City BBQ vs. all-world flavors by the Bay.
And, throw in a few celebrity rooters. Jeff Foxworthy cheering for his good pal Yost. Former Journey frontman Steve Perry in the stands at AT&T Park, leading the crowd in singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” during the seventh-inning stretch.
A surprising meeting? Maybe, although both teams had high expectations when they met in Surprise — that’s in Arizona, where Hunter Pence homered as the Giants beat the Royals early in spring training.
By August, the Royals were rolling. They swept the visiting Giants in a three-game series, beating Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum, and stealing seven bases in the finale as All-Star closer Greg Holland excelled.
Now, they meet again.
“We know we have a lot of work ahead of us and we’re playing a great team. But to get to this point, it’s time to celebrate,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after Travis Ishikawa’s bottom-of-the-ninth homer Thursday night beat St. Louis in the clinching Game 5 of the NL Championship Series.
The Royals, after going 8-0 in the AL playoffs, are back in the World Series for the first time since beating the Cardinals in 1985. That’s 29 years — the average age on the Royals’ postseason roster is 28. That includes reliever Brandon Finnegan, who pitched this summer for TCU in the College World Series.
Cain, the AL Championship Series MVP, and Kansas City will have had five days off before Game 1. In the past, long layoffs in October have often meant rust more than rest.
The Giants are trying to extend their every-other-year success after winning crowns in 2010 and 2012. Sandoval, the popular Kung Fu Panda and a former World Series MVP, and his pals also have a lengthy break after finishing off St. Louis.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that’s been through this … they know what to expect and they are not afraid of the moment by no means,” said Bumgarner, MVP of the NLCS.
“And I think the young guys that we have that have not been through it, they say that and then they feed off of that and they know that they don’t have to be afraid, either,” he said. “I really like the group of guys that we have here and it’s going to be a fun series against Kansas City.”
This will be the first time that a pair of wild cards have played in the Series since a seven-game thriller between the Angels and Giants in 2002.
And this meeting has a fair amount of mystery to it, pitting clubs that don’t share a ton of history. They’ve played 12 times since interleague play began, with Kansas City winning nine.
Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt pitched for the Royals the last time they visited San Francisco — that was in 2005, when Barry Bonds was still the giant name in orange and black.
Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry also pitched for both teams. He earned his first career win in 1962 with the Giants when their biggest star was Willie Mays. Perry posted his 314th and final victory in 1983 with the Royals, helped by a home run from Willie Mays Aikens.
Chances are, both teams will bring out their greats starting next week.
Mays and Bonds figure to be on the field in San Francisco, with McCovey Cove barely beyond the right-field wall. George Brett has been hollering from a stadium suite in KC, with the dancing water fountains just past the center-field fence.
In a season in which both teams made a splash, who knows? A splash shot beckons.
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