SAN FRANCISCO — Zack Greinke asked out of Kansas City four years ago. He was in the prime of his career. He would not sign a new contract with the Royals because he wanted to win and, as he told anyone who asked, he did not believe the Royals could win.
Greinke has taken his talents to the Milwaukee Brewers, to the Angels, and to the Dodgers. He has yet to pitch in the World Series.
And just look at the team he jilted now. The Royals are halfway to the World Series championship.
Alcides Escobar, one of the players the Royals acquired for Greinke, got two hits and scored two runs Friday. Lorenzo Cain, another of the players in the trade, drove in a run and made two splendid catches in right field. And Kansas City got four hitless innings out of its splendid bullpen to close out a 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the World Series.
The Royals lead the Series, two games to one. The record of the largely anonymous underdog Kansas City squad this postseason: 10-1.
“There’s no intimidation on this team,” Cain said. “No one’s intimidated. It’s just a baseball game.”
The only pitcher to beat the Royals in the postseason: Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. Although another loss would put the Giants on the verge of elimination, Manager Bruce Bochy said he would stick with Ryan Vogelsong for Game 4 — even though Bumgarner said he would be willing to start on short rest.
“It’s not like he pushed real hard,” Bochy said.
Bumgarner never has started on short rest. He has thrown 256 innings this season — 34 more than his previous career high — and a Game 4 start on short rest would set him up for a Game 7 start on short rest. To Bochy, those concerns outweighed the chance to give the one truly elite starter in this series two more starts rather than one.
“I don’t think, at this point, we should push Madison either,” Bochy said.
The Royals’ bullpen management was curious, complicated by the wrinkle of an American League team playing under National League rules. The Royals play with a simple strategy: get the lead, then get the game to the bullpen trinity of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie took a 3-0 lead to the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Giants had yet to get a runner into scoring position. But, when Brandon Crawford singled to start the inning, and pinch-hitter Michael Morse doubled him home, the Royals deployed Herrera.
“I’m not getting beaten in the sixth inning with the bullpen that I’ve got,” Royals Manager Ned Yost said.
Herrera walked the first batter, then got three ground balls. The Royals led, 3-2, and Yost wanted one more inning from Herrera.
But this was an NL park, and Herrera was due to bat fourth in the top of the seventh. The Royals made two quick outs, and then Jarrod Dyson singled.
“Actually, I was hoping Dyson would make an out there,” Yost said, “but he steps up and foils my plan and gets a hit.”
So Herrera stepped up, risking an arm that generates 101-mph fastballs on the first at-bat of his professional career.
“I was just hoping he didn’t get hit in the hand,” said Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer, who had singled home what proved to be the deciding run.
Incredibly, the Royals did not order Herrera not to swing. He took one pitch, swung at the next two, and struck out.
In the seventh, after another Herrera walk, the Royals summoned left-hander Brandon Finnegan, who became the first player to pitch in the College World Series and the World Series in the same year. On this night, the trinity would need a fourth arm.
Finnegan faced two batters, and retired them both. Davis worked a perfect eighth, and Holland did the same in the ninth, against the heart of the Giants’ order: Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence.
For Greinke, wait till next year. For the Royals, a parade is two victories away.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin