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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Bruce Bochy leaves ace up his sleeve, and it pays off

Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants looks

Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants looks on during batting practice before Game 3 of the 2014 World Series against the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park on Oct. 24, 2014 in San Francisco. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

SAN FRANCISCO - The Giants didn't so much win with Ryan Vogelsong as survive him in Saturday night's wild Game 4 at AT&T Park. If things had turned out differently and they hadn't earned an 11-4 comeback victory over the Royals, the decision to go with Vogelsong over ace Madison Bumgarner (on three days' rest) could have haunted Bruce Bochy into the winter.

But the Giants did something teams don't usually do in the World Series. They overcame a frightfully brief outing by their starter and guaranteed this Fall Classic will go at least six games for the first time since 2011.

The Royals harassed Vogelsong for four runs and five singles, two of the infield variety, in chasing him with two outs in the third. At that point, the odds were against the Giants. Before Saturday night, in World Series history, teams that squeezed 22/3 innings or less from their starter were 31-104.

The last team to rebound from such a poor outing was the 2002 Angels, who came back from Kevin Appier's two-inning stint to win Game 2 and beat the Giants in seven games. We get the feeling this series is headed to seven as well, a sentiment shared by both clubhouses after what transpired in Game 4.

"Oh, man, somewhere inside of me, secretly I had hoped that it would go seven games for the excitement and the thrill of it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I've never felt so good about getting my tail whooped in my life."

That's one way to look at it. And if you're the Royals, what the heck. It's a best-of-three series now, with the final two scheduled for Kauffman Stadium. Yost didn't use his bullpen's Big Three in the blowout, so there's that. Failing to hold a 4-1 lead wasn't great, but the Giants deserve some credit, too.

We didn't see it coming. One moment, Vogelsong was circling the drain along with the Giants' hopes for a third World Series ring in five years. If the Royals had gone up 3-1, we were ready to go with destiny over dynasty.

But Vogelsong's nightmare inning was just an early plot twist, something that made the later innings all that more dramatic. Pablo Sandoval defied his splits with a pair of big hits against lefty relievers, including a two-out, two-run single in the sixth.

The wild-eyed Hunter Pence seemed to be everywhere, with three hits, three RBIs and two runs. Merely the sight of Pence created a good kind of hysteria among the 43,066 fans, re-energized after the Game 3 downer.

The Giants even got three hits, two runs and a walk from the No. 9 spot, including a fourth-inning single by reliever Yusmeiro Petit, whom Bochy couldn't afford to pull there.

Bochy did show trust last night, but we read him wrong. It was in his team, not specifically Vogelsong, whose ERA climbed to 7.36 this postseason. It was the trust in his club's resiliency that gave Bochy the confidence to keep Bumgarner holstered until Game 5. "We came into this game asking everyone to come in attacking," Pence said, "going all out for each other."

Earlier that afternoon, much of the focus was on Bumgarner, who shot down a report that said he had told his teammates Friday night that he "will not take no for an answer" in regard to starting Game 4 on three days' rest.

Bumgarner flat-out denied that was the case. "It sounds like I'm trying to run the team, which I'm certainly not," he said. "It doesn't make sense to me why that would happen. I never said anything to anyone about anything. That's just ridiculous."

Bumgarner certainly hasn't looked tired. He's 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA and opponents are hitting .162 against him. In Game 1, he held the Royals to three hits and one run in the Giants' 7-1 win. That has to be encouraging for the Giants, who now have their ace on the mound for the last game at AT&T Park this season.

"The fact that he's had his normal rest," Bochy said, "I feel a lot better, to be honest."

The Game 4 win helped, too. No thanks to Vogelsong.

New York Sports