Pence shakes up Royals with homer in Series opener
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — Hunter Pence most definitely found the right place.
A day after saying he hadn’t been sure until this year that the Royals played in Missouri rather than Kansas, Pence jolted Kauffman Stadium with a two-run, first-inning homer that sparked the San Francisco Giants to a 7-1 win in Tuesday night’s World Series opener.
Pence also doubled and scored for a 4-0 lead in the fourth as the Giants won their seventh straight Series game dating to 2010.
Overall, the right fielder who wears his socks extraordinarily high reached base four times against the Royals. He connected off James Shields in the first after entering 0 for 11 against the right-hander in his career.
“You don’t really ever know when you get an opportunity,” Pence said. “Runner in scoring position, 3-2 count, just trying to put the ball in play.”
Pence is a bit of a clubhouse comic and started a meme on Aug. 1 when he tweeted a photo of himself in a New York coffee shop with the message, “These pretzels are making me thirsty,” a reference to a 1991 episode of the television sitcom “Seinfeld.”
Fans started showing up at ballparks referencing Pence’s quirks with nonsensical signs.
“One of my favorites in Kansas City was, ‘Hunter Pence Thinks He’s in Kansas,’” Pence explained on the eve of the opener. “Once I read the sign, I said, ‘I guess I’m not in Kansas, so I have to be in Missouri.’ So I didn’t know.”
The 31-year-old right fielder, acquired by the Giants from Philadelphia at the 2012 trade deadline, entertained at Monday’s media day, looking a bit like a mid-1980s Bruce Springsteen with a bandanna around his hair. He’s been known to wear a “LINCECOM KNOWS” sign in honor of teammate Tim Lincecum, who dresses a couple of spots away in San Francisco’s home clubhouse.
A three-time All-Star, Pence is among the key emotional components in a clubhouse that could become the first NL team to win three championships in a five-year span since the 1942-46 St. Louis Cardinals. His leaping catch — tongue wagging, too — against the right-field wall of Jayson Werth’s sixth-inning drive helped the Giants in their clinching Game 4 win over Washington in the NL Division Series, a highlight that will be replayed for years.
He gathers his team together in the clubhouse after wins for profanity-filled speeches or to offer congratulations for certain accomplishments, team and individual. Sometimes, manager Bruce Bochy doesn’t need to say a word in team meetings, acknowledging Pence had the subject covered quite well.