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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

World Series story lines: Breaking down the Royals-Giants matchup

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost at Kauffman

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost at Kauffman Stadium. (June 5, 2013) Credit: Getty

This October had so much potential. A "Beltway Series" between the Orioles and Nationals. A "Freeway Series" between the Angels and Dodgers. Or maybe even a rematch of the 1989 "Bay Bridge Series" between the A's and Giants.

Instead, we get the two wild-card winners, the Royals and Giants, squaring off in something that we're struggling to create a nickname for.

Could there be two places with less in common? And for the Royals, this isn't just their first World Series appearance in 29 years. It's their first trip to the playoffs since 1985.

But the Giants have some history to make, too. Winning this World Series would give them three titles in five years and a legit claim to the sport's first dynasty since the Yankees won four rings from 1996-2000.

With those stakes, it's a compelling story line even without a catchy slogan. So here's a few other subplots to consider as we count down to Tuesday's Game 1 at Kauffman Stadium.


Has any AL champion manager been pilloried more than the Royals' Ned Yost? It's not often that a manager is given zero credit for a team's success and complete blame for any missteps, of which Kansas City has made very, very few this postseason. The Royals have a lights-out bullpen, which makes life easier for Yost, and his decision to go with Kelvin Herrera -- his seventh-inning guy -- two outs early in the ALCS clincher shows that he's learning. "Ned's a very thick-skinned person," general manager Dayton Moore said.


Lost amid the Bay Area euphoria, or maybe just shelved for the time being, is the fact that Pablo Sandoval will become a first-time free agent in another two weeks. That's great news for Sandoval, with teams such as the Red Sox and Dodgers (and perhaps the Yankees?) in the market for a third baseman. But not so great for SF fans, who will have to find another use for all those furry panda lids. As solid as Sandoval has been during the regular season (a career .294/.346/.465 slash line), he's money in the playoffs (.920 OPS). At age 28, does he take a hometown discount to stay?


From Mets trivia question to member of a World Series rotation. You might recall that Vargas was acquired in 2006 from the Marlins in a four-player swap, then made two starts (12.19 ERA) filling in for the injured Mike Pelfrey. A year later, he was flipped to Seattle in the three-team, nine-player trade that sent Sean Green, J.J. Putz and Jeremy Reed to Flushing. Vargas went 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA for Kansas City this season and has a 2.38 ERA in two playoff starts.


We know the lasting image you have of Dave Righetti is his strikeout of Wade Boggs to complete that July 4 no-hitter in 1983. But after a career 3.46 ERA and 252 saves, Righetti is doing some of his best work as the Giants' pitching coach and is on the verge of earning his third World Series ring in the last five seasons with San Francisco. He's been there since 2000, four seasons longer than his 11-year stay in the Bronx.


You wouldn't know it, but Tim Lincecum was on the Giants' roster for the first two rounds of the playoffs, and he's expected to be eligible for the World Series, too. But where exactly does Lincecum -- only the fourth NL pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in back-to-back years -- fit in the equation? He was the only Giant not to throw a pitch in any of their 10 postseason games, not even the 18-inning Game 2 of the NLDS. That suggests the outlook is bleak for "The Freak" in the World Series.


If chicks dig the long ball, as that Nike ad famously said, then expect this World Series to have a largely male viewership. Kauffman Stadium surrendered the fewest home runs per game (1.26) in the AL and was second only to Petco Park (1.25) overall. That helps explain why the Royals hit an MLB-low 95 homers. The drafty, chilly confines of AT&T Park weren't much better, giving up an average of 1.32 homers, third fewest in the non-DH NL.


For the Royals, anyway, because once they hand the ball to Herrera for the seventh inning, it's pretty much over for the other team. The Herrera-to-Wade Davis-to-Greg Holland back end of the Royals' bullpen has a combined 1.05 ERA this offseason, with 30 strikeouts and nine walks in 25 2/3 innings. In the ALCS, Herrera and Davis didn't allow a run in 10 2/3 innings, with 12 strikeouts and one walk. The Royals swept the Orioles without one starter going a full six innings.


Everyone got a little uptight last week when the Royals maybe showed a bit too much confidence on the way to their ALCS sweep. First it was Jarrod Dyson saying that he didn't believe the series was going back to Baltimore after the first two wins, and he added that he felt the Orioles thought the same way. Then it was Jeremy Guthrie's now-infamous Chris Brown-themed "These O's ain't Royal" T-shirt he wore to a postgame news conference. The Giants are savvy enough to keep Hunter Pence contained, so we're hopeful the Royals let some of that swagger slip again.

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