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World Series Game 4: A Small Ball Paradise

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Baseball's World Series is called the Fall Classic. And the one going on right now between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals is living up to that description. Last night in San Francisco, the Giants won a roller-coaster-ride of a game, 11-4. The win tied the series at two games apiece. There were so many swings of fortune and heroic plays, it's hard to pick out the greatest moments. NPR's Tom Goldman was there, and he tries.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It was about as thrilling a game as you could get inside AT&T Park, emphasis on inside. Infield singles, sacrifice bunts, stolen bases - a small-ball paradise, in a certain disappointment to those people bobbing in McCovey Cove outside the park, who wait in their kayaks and other floating things for the splashdown home run balls which weren't coming last night. Sorry, said Giants' first baseman, Brandon Belt.

BRANDON BELT: We're just going to have to deal with it right now because if that's the only way we can get a win, that's how we're going to do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF "ROCKY" THEME SONG)

GOLDMAN: An instantly recognizable and fitting theme filled the park last night as San Francisco Giants' third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, walked to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning. "Rocky" was a perfect statement about a small-ball contest that felt, at times, like a boxing match.

The Giants had jabbed first with a run in the first inning. Then KC threw an uppercut with four runs in the third. With that lead and a win the night before, the rolling Royals were starting to feel pretty good. Right, Ned Yost? Not really, Kansas City's manager said later.

NED YOST: We still had a lot of game to play. You know, I've got a lot of respect for the Giants. I don't ever feel good, you know, with the lead until we make the last out.

GOLDMAN: Indeed, as Sandoval stepped to the plate, the bad feelings for Yost and the Royals were about to begin. Batting from the right side, where the switch-hitting Sandoval is a lot weaker, the 5 foot 11 inch, 245 pound Kung Fu panda, as he's known, cracked a single that kept a rally going that would tie the game at four-all. Next inning, panda power, again.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: This single by Sandoval was the knockout punch. It scored two, gave the Giants a 6-4 lead which they extended to 7-4 by inning's end. Game over, and here's why. While Yost said he wasn't conceding anything at that point, he also decided he wasn't going to put in his big three relief pitchers - the guys who regularly lock down opponents. At least he wasn't going to put them in unless his team got back in the game.

They never did, thanks to the Giants' relievers - especially Sandoval's fellow Venezuelan, Yusmeiro Petit. He gave up only two hits and no runs in three important innings in the middle of the game. The guy who went in when Petit finally went out - Jeremy Affeldt - praised Petit to the hilt. Affeldt also noted, with great satisfaction, how relievers - what he calls back-ends - are getting so much attention in this World Series.

JEREMY AFFELDT: They're not just like all it used to be - it's all about offense. We don't like to pay bullpen. We don't need bullpen help. We'll get some guys in the minor leagues. Well, good luck in winning, then. You're starting to see teams that are putting together some back-ends, and they're thriving. And I'm happy. I'm more than happy that they're starting to see that.

GOLDMAN: Guess who else was happy last night? Believe it or not, Kansas City manager, Yost.

YOST: I've never felt so good about getting my tail whooped - you know? - in my life because I'm sitting here thinking it's game four. It's tied 2-2. This is a phenomenal series. It's exciting. It's fun. You know? And we've got another great game tomorrow that we get to play, so really looking forward to it.

GOLDMAN: Tomorrow is now today. And game five features the starting pitcher heavyweights again. October star, Madison Bumgarner, the Giants' sterling left-hander goes against the Royals' ace, James Shields, who was un-ace-like in game one of the series. Ned Yost, two teams and a whole bunch of baseball fans are looking forward to what comes next. Tom Goldman, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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