Bullpen's strong effort sets up Bumgarner, Giants

Eric Risberg/APSergio Romo and the Giants' bullpen bounced back from a rocky Games 2 and 3 against the Royals in the World Series.

Nobody else had been able to do it, which makes the fact that the Giants were able to do it is as sensible as anything we've seen in this often nonsensical postseason.

The Giants, who've discovered all manner of previously unknown ways to score runs and win games this month, finally found a Royals weakness.

And how's this for strange: it's their bullpen.

That's right. Their bullpen. Their vaunted, feared, electric, shut-down bullpen.

<p> Prior to game four on Saturday night at AT&T Park, any mention of Royals relievers came with the serious and well deserved dose of unwavering admiration. In winning 10 of their first 11 postseason games, in their first postseason as a franchise in 29 years, did establish a clear and simple formula for success.

Get a lead before the seventh inning. Hand the ball to Kelvin Herrera. And the ball to Wade Davis. And the ball to Greg Holland. Win ball game. Rinse, repeat.

This formula is why Kansas City made it to the playoffs in the first place. Through Game 3 on Friday night, the Royals played 78 games in which they help to leave after seven innings. They won 77 of those games.

So when Kansas City jumped out to a 4-1 lead early on Saturday, once again taking the sellout crowd audibly out of the proceedings, more than a few Giants fans like we started mentally mapping out their eulogy to the season.

The keyword in all that, however, is “early” as in, too early for Herrera, Davis and Holland. Way too early.

As it turns out, the Giants had the Royals right where they wanted them. Kansas City needed to get six more outs before manager Ned Yost could turn it over to HDH, and that was six outs too many.

Exposed in a huge way was the Royals' one weakness: the soft underbelly of that vaunted bullpen — the middle relievers. Have been dispatched of left-handed starter Jason Vargas, the Giants attacked the Royals' soft underbelly with an urgency not seeing thus far in the World Series.

That 4-1 deficit quickly turned into a 7-4 cushion, while HDH sat on their collective hands. Helpless to stop the inexorable charge.

Meanwhile, one of the Giants biggest strengths was once again revealed: Yusmeiro Petit. San Francisco's not-so-secret weapon came on, settled everything down, stabilized things from a different standpoint, and away the Giants went, reshaping the series with the victory that sets up Sunday evening quite nicely.

Even less of a secret for San Francisco is that they have the best pitcher still going in the playoffs. Madison Bumgarner will have the ball in his van with a chance to send the Giants back to Kansas City needing one win for a third title in five years.

We saw in the first three games how evenly matched these teams are. One blowout and 11 runs each. Saturday showed what a mismatch things are in middle relief, though, and at this point, with MadBum raring to go, you have to think that just might be enough.

Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of “Inside the Bigs,” which airs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ “The Game” (95.7 FM).

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