SAN FRANCISCO - It was a slight variation on the three-headed bullpen monster that has dominated the postseason, but the result was the same.
And now the Kansas City Royals find themselves two victories away from a World Series title.
Getting just enough on offense, an effective outing from their starter and typical lock-down work from their bullpen, the Royals edged the Giants, 3-2, in front of 43,020 Friday night at AT&T Park.
The Royals took a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series, which continues Saturday night.
"It's a seven-game series. We're not getting complacent," said Greg Holland, who recorded his seventh save during the Royals' 10-1 postseason with an eight-pitch ninth. "The game can change real quick."
But not, usually, when Kansas City's bullpen gets involved.
For much of the season, Royals manager Ned Yost has relied on the triumvirate of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Holland to finish games in which his club led after six innings. In the regular season, the formula worked to the tune of a 65-5 record when the Royals led after six, 72-1 when they led after seven and 79-1 when they led after eight.
In Game 3, after Jeremy Guthrie gave him all he could, Yost -- who again prompted some head-scratching with moves that ultimately proved successful -- went to Herrera in the sixth and inserted rookie Brandon Finnegan with one out in the seventh before Davis and Holland were perfect in the eighth and ninth.
"This is the way our games have gone all year," Yost said. "I'm getting really good at protecting a one-run lead because a lot of times that's exactly what we have to deal with. But I have the necessary tools to be able to do that. We have the type of pitchers in our bullpen that can accomplish that."
The four allowed no hits and no runs in four innings. The Kansas City bullpen is 7-0 with a 1.66 ERA this postseason.
"Being a part of the best bullpen in the league is awesome," said Finnegan, who became the first player ever to appear in the College World Series (with Texas Christian University) and Fall Classic in the same year.
Guthrie allowed two runs, four hits and no walks in five innings-plus in picking up the win. Giants starter Tim Hudson, at 39 the second-oldest pitcher to make his World Series debut as a starter -- behind Jamie Moyer, who was nearly 46 when he did it for the Phillies in 2008 -- allowed three runs, four hits and a walk in 52/3 innings.
When Guthrie grounded out to begin the sixth, Hudson had retired 12 straight batters, but the Royals then scored twice to take a 3-0 lead. Alcides Escobar singled, Alex Gordon drove him in with a double and lefthanded-hitting Eric Hosmer battled lefty Javier Lopez through an 11-pitch at-bat that ended with an RBI single.
Guthrie had retired 10 straight entering the bottom of the sixth, but Brandon Crawford led off with a single. Pinch hitter Michael Morse then pulled a full-count fastball over third base for an RBI double that made it 3-1.
Herrera walked Gregor Blanco on four pitches, and Joe Panik's grounder put runners at second and third. With the tying run in scoring position, Buster Posey grounded out to second, with a run scoring, and Pablo Sandoval grounded out to first.
In the seventh, the righthanded Herrera walked Hunter Pence before fanning lefthanded-hitting Brandon Belt. Finnegan, a lefthander, then retired righthanded-hitting pinch hitter Juan Perez and the lefthanded-hitting Crawford to end the inning.
"Their bullpen, you get your hands full when they come in," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I don't know if there's a better bullpen. You get a tough go when you're facing those guys."