Though the Giants took an early lead in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night in Kansas City, the top of the first inning could have gone even worse for the Royals, if not for their defensive prowess.
With runners on first and third and one out, Pablo Sandoval smoked a James Shields breaking ball into Kauffman Stadium's right-field corner. Gregor Blanco scored easily, but the Giants didn't settle for a 1-0 edge. Buster Posey, stationed at first, took an initial nine-foot lead and extended it to 14 feet at contact, according to Statcast. The less-than-fleet-footed catcher took a quick look at the ball as it soared into right field, then shifted into high gear.
Posey, traveling at a top speed of 18.4 mph, got the wave toward home from third-base coach Tim Flannery. But the risk didn't pay off, as Royals right fielder Nori Aoki deftly played the carom off the wall and zipped a throw to cutoff man Omar Infante, who fired to the plate. The throw got to catcher Salvador Perez with Posey still a few steps from home, giving Perez time to easily slap a tag on Posey's leg as he came in standing up.
Blanco tags, advances
Prior to Sandoval's RBI double, Blanco got into scoring position with some heads-up baserunning. After Blanco's leadoff single, Joe Panik hit a deep fly ball to deep left-center field, but Blanco read it well enough to retreat about 20 feet to first base before center fielder Lorenzo Cain made the catch. Blanco tagged up and hustled to second base at a top speed of 19.6 mph, making it easily.
Pence goes deep
Posey's out at the plate didn't stifle the Giants' offense in the first inning, thanks to Hunter Pence. Following Sandoval's double, Pence worked the count full against Shields, then got a 93-mph fastball right down the middle and belt-high. He jumped all over it, hitting a rocket that cleared Kauffman Stadium's vast outfield, dropping into the seats a little to the right of dead center, 411.8 feet away. The two-run shot gave San Francisco a 3-0 lead. It was Pence's second homer since Sept. 2 and his second in 131 career postseason plate appearances.
Panik's RBI triple
The Giants extended their five-run lead in the seventh inning when reliever Danny Duffy hung an 0-2 breaking ball to Panik. Blanco, on first base after a leadoff walk, got out to an 18-foot secondary lead as Panik hit a liner to right-center field. Aoki chased it but came up a little short, then slipped and fell on his backside as the ball skipped past him and went to the wall. By the time Cain retrieved it and got it back in, Panik had an RBI triple, with Blanco reaching 20.3 mph as he scored and Panik 19.6 mph as he cruised into third.
Perez breaks up shutout
Giants starter Madison Bumgarner looked to be on his way to a third straight scoreless outing to begin his World Series career, blanking the Royals through 6 2/3 innings. That's when Perez caught up to a 93-mph, 1-2 fastball from the left-hander and launched it over the left-field wall and into the bullpen. The 379.2-foot blast accounted for Kansas City's only run of the game.
Crawford snags Infante's popup
Following the home run, the Royals were looking to sustain a rally, but the Giants had other plans. Infante blooped an 0-1 pitch over the head of shortstop Brandon Crawford and into shallow left-center field. Though Blanco was racing in from center, Crawford was probably the only defender with a chance at the play, and he made it look easy. Sprinting out at a maximum of 17.3 mph, Crawford covered more than 100 feet of ground and snagged the ball to prevent a hit.
Statcast highlights from earlier in the postseason
NLCS Game 5: Deflected grounder helps Giants
With two outs and two on in the top of the ninth, the Cardinals' Kolten Wong hit a smash to the left side of the infield. It looked like the ball would get through and score pinch-runner Daniel Descalso from second, but Giants third baseman Sandoval managed to get the tip of his glove on the ball. It took a favorable Giants hop, though, as shortstop Crawford raced over to backhand it and quickly flipped to second base for a crucial out. Crawford traveled 24.7 feet on the play, ultimately being in the exact right place at the right time. Crawford's quick reactions helped him narrowly throw out Randal Grichuk at second, despite Grichuk having expanded his secondary lead to 13 feet off first base prior to the hit and reaching a maximum speed of 19.1 mph during it.
ALCS Game 4: Gordon goes off the wall
With the Royals holding a one-run lead in the fifth inning, the Orioles' J.J. Hardy turned on an inside pitch from Jason Vargas and walloped it to left field. Kauffman Stadium held its collective breath as the ball sailed, according to the Statcast, precisely 374.4 feet. That wasn't enough to clear Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who raced back to the wall, reaching a top speed of 16.7 mph. The ball smacked into Gordon's glove just before he smacked into the screen-covered scoreboard, and he held on as he fell backward to the dirt, holding his glove up to show he made the catch.
ALCS Games 1 and 2: Dyson gets caught ... twice
Counting the postseason, Jarrod Dyson entered this series 121-for-141 (85.8 percent) as a basestealer in his career, including 71-for-84 (84.5 percent) over the past two seasons. Yet he started the ALCS 0-for-2 against Baltimore, marking only the second time he was been caught in consecutive games. In Game 1, Dyson took his first step in 0.27 seconds and accelerated to a top speed of 20.1 mph in 2.2 seconds. He slid in ahead of a 70.1-mph throw from catcher Nick Hundley, but second baseman Jonathan Schoop kept his tag on Dyson's left leg as it came off the bag, possibly applying the pressure that made Dyson's leg stray.
No such tactic was necessary in Game 2, with Caleb Joseph catching lefty Andrew Miller. This time, Dyson reached a higher top speed (22.3 mph), but the pitch was high, giving Joseph a good opportunity to throw. Joseph, who threw out 40 percent of attempted basestealers during the regular season, made a perfect throw to shortstop Hardy, on the first-base side of the bag. Hardy put the tag down on Dyson's left shoulder just before he reached the base.
ALCS Game 2: Cain sprints, lays out to rob Hardy
Cain tormented the Orioles defensively. Hardy led off the sixth inning with a drive that traveled about 350 feet into the right-center-field gap off Yordano Ventura. It looked like an extra-base hit off the bat, but Cain had other ideas. From his position in center, he took his first step toward the ball in less than a quarter of a second, accelerating to a maximum speed of 21.2 mph in 3.74 seconds. But to make the play, Cain needed more than pure speed. Statcast measured his route efficiency at 99.7 percent, meaning he traversed a nearly optimal path from his original location to the spot where he dove to snag Hardy's shot. That allowed his long strides to cover 82 feet of outfield in only 3.65 seconds.
ALCS Game 1: Hundley's crazy scoop
With the game tied at 5 in top of the ninth, Orioles reliever Zach Brittonwalked the first three batters he faced, but then got bailed out when the Royals' Eric Hosmer hit a weak grounder to first base. Alcides Escobar, the runner on third, had a secondary lead of 13 feet, 9 inches, but got an understandably slow start, as he wanted to be conservative with no one out. (He ultimately reached a top speed of 20.3 mph, which is impressive.) First baseman Steve Pearce charged Hosmer's grounder and made a clean scoop, but his throw came in low, and it took an incredible scoop by catcher Hundley to record the out, with the ball beating Escobar by just .17 seconds.