SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy resisted the lure of bringing back ace lefthander Madison Bumgarner on short rest to pitch Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night.
He trusted in his team to find a way to beat the Kansas City Royals and allow Bumgarner to pitch on turn in Game 5. Bochy has managed long enough to know a sudden change of plans can often backfire, especially when players are put in positions they’re not accustomed to.
As the Giants piled up hits, the Series turned their way. Hunter Pence drove in three runs and Pablo Sandoval had the biggest hit of the night in an 11-4 victory.
Now, with the Series tied, 2-2, Bumgarner will face James Shields. The Giants also solved at least one piece of Kansas City’s powerful bullpen, scoring five runs against rookie Brandon Finnegan.
The Giants, down by three runs early in the game, collected 16 hits against five Kansas City pitchers.
The Royals bullpen allowed nine earned runs over 48⅔ innings in the first 11 postseason games; it gave up eight over four innings on Saturday.
It was Kansas City’s first loss on the road this postseason.
As for the Giants, their five relievers combined to throw 6⅓ innings of shutout baseball, allowing five hits and one walk, while striking out five. Yusmeiro Petit, who started the fourth, pitched three scoreless innings, and got the win.
“We got our tails whipped today, but it’s Game 4 of the World Series. We’re tied, 2-2, how much more fun can that be?” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “There is nothing better in the world . . . This is a phenomenal series. It’s exciting.”
Down in the third inning, 4-1, the Giants worked their way back into the game and eventually blew it open.
Buster Posey had an RBI single in the third inning and San Francisco knocked Jason Vargas out of the game in the fifth.
Joe Panik led off with a double to right field. With Jason Frasor on the mound, Panik moved up on a groundout and scored when Pence singled.
Facing lefty Danny Duffy, Sandoval singled. Brandon Belt then walked before Juan Perez drove in Pence with a sacrifice fly to center as Jarrod Dyson made a terrific catch to save a bigger inning.
The Giants scored three runs on four hits against Finnegan in the sixth inning.
Pinch hitter Joaquin Arias led off with a single, and Gregor Blanco also singled after failing to get a bunt down. Panik did bunt and the Royals intentionally walked Posey to load the bases.
It worked at first when Pence grounded into a force at the plate. But Sandoval, who hit .199 against lefties during the season, singled to center to drive in two runs. Belt then drove in Pence with another single.
“[Sandoval] goes out there and has a great game for us. It’s nice to have a switch-hitter that swings it well from both sides, and he seems to rise to the occasion when you need him,” Bochy said.
Said teammate Jake Peavy: “I’ve compared him to David Ortiz. He’s as clutch as it gets.”
The Giants scored four more runs in the seventh inning to put the Royals away. Panik had a two-run double and Pence drove in another with a double. Finnegan was charged with five runs.
Baseball, Finnegan said, “will kick your teeth in.” But the 21-year-old didn’t seem rattled.
“Sports isn’t for you if you can’t take it,” he said.
The Giants used two walks, a wild pitch, a steal, and a fielder’s choice to score a run in the first inning, but San Francisco starter Ryan Vogelsong didn’t get through the third inning.
It was an ugly inning for the Giants. Alcides Escobar, who has hit safely in nine consecutive postseason games, singled to center with one out. When Alex Gordon grounded to first, Belt was slow getting the ball to second and the Giants could not turn a double play.
Gordon then stole second base on Posey’s poor throw.
Lorenzo Cain reached on an single to shortstop as Gordon went to third. When Eric Hosmer grounded to the right side, the Giants could not end the inning when Vogelsong missed the base with his foot and a run scored.
Mike Moustakas walked to extend the inning. Omar Infante was next and he ripped a two-run single into center. Infante is 10 of 14 in his career against Vogelsong.
The Giants had righthander Jean Machi warming up, but Vogelsong stayed to face Salvador Perez. It was a batter too many as Perez singled to center and Moustakas scored.
Machi came in and walked Dyson to load the bases before striking out Vargas, the opposing pitcher.
Vargas batted twice in the inning, the first pitcher to do that in a World Series game since Luis Tiant of the Red Sox in the seventh inning of Game 1 against the Reds in 1975.
The Royals will get a chance to win the Series at home, regardless of what happens on Sunday. Yost thinks seven games are inevitable.
“Somewhere inside of me secretly I had hoped that it would go seven games for the excitement and the thrill of it,” he said. “Sure looks that way.”Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.