KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Salvador Perez and the pesky Kansas City Royals fought back from a Game 1 flop to beat the San Francisco Giants' brilliant bullpen and even the World Series.
Perez broke Game 2 open with a two-run double in a five-run sixth inning, and the Royals' own cast of clutch relievers kept the Giants in check in a 7-2 victory Wednesday night that spiced things up as the Series shifts to San Francisco for the next three games.
Jeremy Guthrie will be on the mound Friday night for the Royals, who had won eight straight playoff games before a 7-1 loss in the opener. Tim Hudson will start for San Francisco.
“We felt like with our big sixth inning there, we took a little bit of momentum out of them,” said Billy Butler, whose RBI single in the sixth gave the Royals a 3-2 lead.
Perez followed with a double into the left-field gap, and Omar Infante hit a two-run shot off Hunter Strickland, the fifth home run that he'd allowed to 23 postseason batters.
Strickland appeared to mutter to himself as he stalked back to the mound, and Perez overheard him. The two exchanged words and players from both dugouts spilled onto the field. More streamed in from the outfield bullpens before order was finally restored.
Suddenly, a series that began with a sleepy blowout had some life.
Young flamethrower Yordano Ventura, with his 100 mph fastball singeing the brims of the Giants' batting helmets, allowed just two runs while pitching into the sixth inning. The 23-year-old hardly looked like the first rookie to make a World Series start in Royals history, calmly working through a lineup that ravaged staff ace James Shields just 24 hours earlier.
The dynamic trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland did the rest.
Herrera got the final two outs of the sixth to escape a jam, two of his first three pitches clocking 101 mph on the radar gun. He also survived a shaky seventh that included a pair of walks before Davis locked down the eighth, striking out two in a perfect inning.
Greg Holland, who saved each game in the Royals' sweep of Baltimore in the AL Championship Series, allowed a two-out single to Brandon Crawford before fanning Gregor Blanco to end the game.
“We weren't taking any chances,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The Giants' only runs came on a homer by Blanco and a double by Brandon Belt, their streak of seven straight World Series wins ending on a crisp, breezy night.
“For us to leave here with a split, you like to get greedy,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, “but we know it's going to be a tough series.”
Early on, it looked as if the Giants could be heading back to the Bay Area with a big lead.
The fleet-footed Blanco silenced a rollicking sea of blue, becoming the 10th player to open a World Series game with a home run. He deposited Ventura's 98 mph fastball in the bullpen in right field, just his 17th home run in more than 2,300 at-bats.
The crowd, energized from the moment that Hall of Famer George Brett delivered the ceremonial first pitch, was left waiting for something good to happen for the second straight night.
This time, the scrappy Royals gave it to them.
ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain stretched a liner to left field into a two-out double later in the first, and Eric Hosmer walked on four pitches. Butler, Giants starter Jake Peavy's long-time nemesis, then bounced a single past the outstretched glove of Crawford at shortstop to knot the game 1-all.
The Royals kept the pressure on in second. Infante doubled over the head of Travis Ishikawa in left field, and Escobar sliced a two-out double down the right-field line to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead, its first in the World Series since Game 7 in 1985.
The Giants, so accustomed to October baseball, still didn't look rattled â€” even as Ventura kept pounding the strike zone with a steady dose of 100 mph fastballs.
Eventually, Pablo Sandoval sent a high fly to the warning track leading off the fourth, and a stiff wind blowing out to left turned Cain around. The ball caromed away for a double, and Belt drove in Sandoval with a double that bounced off Nori Aoki's glove in right field.
The game was still knotted at 2 when the Royals got their first two batters aboard in the sixth. Giants manager Bruce Bochy finally pulled the fiery Peavy, hoping to play for matchups with his bullpen. Butler promptly hit a go-ahead single off Jean Machi, and Strickland came in two batters later to face Perez, whose homer in Game 1 represented the Royals' only run.
From there, well, the Royals showed they still had plenty of fight left.
Sandoval has reached base safely in 25 consecutive playoff games. The only players to have done that more are Miguel Cabrera (31) and Chase Utley (27).
Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum worked 1 2-3 innings of relief before he appeared to hurt himself on a pitch with two outs in the eighth. Santiago Casilla replaced him.
Giants: Hudson has appeared in 12 postseason games and started 11 of them, first with Oakland and then Atlanta. But he's never been on the mound in the World Series. He shut down Washington in the NLDS, giving up one run in 7 1-3 innings, but struggled against St. Louis in the NLCS.
Royals: Guthrie, an 11-year veteran, did not pitch in the Royals' sweep of the Angels in the ALDS. He made his first career postseason start in the ALCS against the Orioles, allowing one run on three hits over five innings in his first outing since Sept. 26.