The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants will meet Wednesday in a Game 7 matchup that will determine baseball’s 2014 world champion. The Royals squared the series at 3-3 Tuesday after a dominant 10-0 victory over the Giants in Game 6.
From a statistical standpoint, the 2014 World Series has been remarkably even. The Giants hold slight leads over the Royals in runs scored and hits, but have been unable to separate themselves from their competition thus far.
Fans will have several storylines to track during Wednesday night’s game. Here are seven things to watch when the Royals and Giants clash at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
Home-field Advantage: Baseball’s much-maligned All-Star Game format could pay huge dividends for the Royals on Wednesday. The American League’s victory over the National League in July means that Game 7 of the 2014 World Series will be played at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, where the Royals are 6-1 this postseason. During the regular season, the Royals won 47 games and lost 34 at home, while the Giants were 43-38 record on the road, and lost all three games at Kauffman in an interleague series in August. In the series, the Giants have won one of three games in Kansas City. Home teams have a 9-0 record in Game 7 since 1982.
Starting Pitching Matchup: The Giants will go with 39-year-old Tim Hudson, the MLB’s active wins leader and the oldest pitcher ever to start a World Series game. He will face Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, a journeyman starter who outdueled him in Kansas City’s 3-2 victory in Game 3. Expect both starting pitchers to be pulled quickly if they struggle, as both clubs have the luxury of well-rested bullpens.
Will the Giants Turn to Their Ace? Game 7 will be the last game of the 2014 MLB season, so neither the Giants nor the Royals have any reason to hold back their pitching staffs. If Hudson struggles, the Giants may turn to Madison Bumgarner, the Giants superstar starting pitcher, who has allowed just one run over 16 innings in two appearances in the series. Managers have turned to starters to pitch in relief in the past, much like when Bob Brenly of the Arizona Diamondbacks turned to future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson to spell Curt Schilling in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
Giants on Brink of Dynasty: A victory over the Royals in Game 7 would give the Giants their third World Series title in the last five years. All of San Francisco’s recent World Series appearances occurred under manager Bruce Bochy.
Will the Giants’ Bats Wake Up? San Francisco failed to score a single run against the Royals in Game 6. More concerning are the struggling bats at the top of the Giants’ lineup. Both leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco and offensive lynchpin Buster Posey are hitting under .200 in the World Series. A return to form could be crucial to the Giants’ hopes in Game 7.
Can the Royals Offense Build Off Game 6 Performance? Kansas City’s seven-run outburst in the second inning of Game 6 matched or surpassed their scoring output in every other game this series. Under manager Ned Yost, the Royals have typically relied on strong pitching, solid defense and “small ball” to win games. A similarly strong offensive performance in Game 7 could assure the Royals’ first world championship since 1985.
Royals’ Possible Return to Prominence: Once a laughingstock in the AL, the Royals are on the verge of turning their first playoff appearance in three decades into a championship. Coincidentally, the Royals’ most recent World Series berth in 1985 ended with a successful Game 7 effort against the St. Louis Cardinals.