SAN FRANCISCO >> Down three runs and in danger of getting pushed to the World Series brink, Pablo Sandoval and the San Francisco Giants raised up some Panda-monium.
Sandoval’s single set up the tying run in the fifth inning and the 2012 Series MVP followed with a go-ahead, two-run single in the sixth that sent the Giants surging past the Kansas City Royals 11-4 Saturday night at pulsating AT&T Park.
Hunter Pence, eyes ablaze, had three hits, three RBIs and a nifty sliding catch in the ninth inning, and Joe Panik hit a two-run double in a four-run seventh. San Francisco piled on 16 hits in a game that took exactly 4 hours.
The Series is tied at two games apiece, ensuring the title will be decided at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium next week.
Madison Bumgarner tries to put the Giants ahead Sunday night when he starts against Royals ace James Shields in a rematch of the opener, won by the Giants 7-1.
Showcasing baseball at its exciting best, the game included a sprawling catch by Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson that left a pair of divots, and the first use of expanded video review in Series history — which became a turning point. Jeff Kellogg’s safe call at second base was upheld on catcher Salvador Perez’s pickoff attempt of Joaquin Arias, helping the Giants build the pivotal rally.
Four fans in the first row near the Giants dugout wore giant — of course — panda heads as they cheered on Sandoval, nicknamed Kung Fu Panda and a veteran of the team’s World Series titles in 2010 and ‘12. The switch-hitter batted just .199 right-handed during the regular season but came up with his first two-hit game from that side of the plate since Aug. 25, emphatically tossing his bat after lining a single to center that put the Giants ahead.
Lost in the torrent of runs was the earlier fit of pique by Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who threw his hat to the dugout floor when his infielders botched a third-inning grounder. The mood was different by the eighth, when former Journey singer Steve Perry sprinted to the front row of the second deck behind home plate and led the crowd of 43,066 in a sing-along of “When the Lights Go Down in the City.”
The Series outlook seemed far different in the third inning, when ominous, dark clouds formed over the bayside ballpark, and the Royals burst ahead 4-1 against Ryan Vogelsong with the help of the botched grounder. Orange-clad fans quieted, and there even were scattered boos.
But Yusmiero Petit settled the NL champions with three innings of scoreless, two-hit relief to improve to 3-0 in the postseason, and 11 different Giants had hits. Three of the 10 Giants in the No. 9 spot had hits; Petit singled to become the first Giants reliever to get a hit in the postseason in 78 years.
Royals manager Ned Yost stayed with starter Jason Vargas into the fifth inning, removing him after Panik’s leadoff double. Royals relievers had been 7-0 in the postseason and in Game 3 pitched four hitless innings to preserve a 3-2 win.
But Yost couldn’t get to his HDH triad of hard-throwing relievers: Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
Jason Frasor and Danny Duffy combined to allow the tying run in a two-run fifth. And Brandon Finnegan, the first player to appear in the College World Series and World Series in the same year, allowed Sandoval’s two-run single and Brandon Belt’s RBI’s single in the sixth. There was intermittent light rain in the early innings. Pence’s RBI forceout in the first gave the Giants a short-lived lead.
Kansas City went ahead with a two-out four-run rally in the third with the help of two infield hits that gave the Royals 18 in the postseason, matching the total of all other teams combined. Eric Hosmer hit a slow tapper to the right side. Belt ranged far off first base to field it, and quickly looked to see if he could get a forceout at second.
With no play there, Belt whirled around and tried to toss to Vogelsong. But the pitcher didn’t get to the bag cleanly, messed up his footwork and had no chance to prevent Hosmer from reaching with a tying single.
Bochy slammed his cap to the dugout floor. Omar Infante grounded a two-run single up the middle for a 3-1 lead, making him 10 for 15 against Vogelsong, and Perez followed with a bloop single to short center for a 4-1 lead.
Buster Posey cut the deficit in the bottom half with an RBI single, tying Barry Bonds’ team record of 21 career postseason RBIs, and the Giants tied the score in the fifth.
After Panik’s leadoff double, Frasor relieved with one out and Pence hit an RBI single that caused Frasor to throw up both arms in frustration. Duffy entered, Sandoval singled Pence to third, Duffy loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk to Belt and Juan Perez’s sacrifice fly made it 4-all.
UP NEXT Royals: Shields has a 7.11 ERA this postseason, totaling 19 innings in four starts. Giants: Bumgarner is 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA in five postseason starts this year.
PITCHERS AT THE PLATE Vargas became the first AL pitcher to bat twice in a Series inning since Boston’s Luis Tiant in the 1975 opener. … The previous Giants reliever to get a Series hit was Slick Castleman, according to STATS.
MUSIC TO THEIR EARS Carlos Santana played “The Star-Spangled Banner” on a guitar, joined by son Salvador Santana on keyboards. Just before that, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown — from the rubber — by Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old who this year became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series. Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who sustained a traumatic brain injury when he was beaten outside Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 2011, yelled “Play Ball!” Stow was in a wheelchair near the Giants dugout, flanked by pitcher Jeremy Affeldt and third-base coach Tim Flannery.