Play It Forward: Oct. 20-26 on your sports calendar — The wildness of a World Series that no one saw coming

Kansas City Royals base runner Alex Gordon (4) takes a lead off first against San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner  during their regular-season meeting on Aug. 8 in Kansas City. The Royals swept three from the Giants. (Photo: Peter G. Aiken-USA Today  Sports)

Kansas City Royals base runner Alex Gordon (4) takes a lead off first against San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner during their regular-season meeting on Aug. 8 in Kansas City. The Royals swept three from the Giants. (Photo: Peter G. Aiken-USA Today Sports)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
110th WORLD SERIES:
GAME 1: KANSAS CITY vs. SAN FRANCISCO
Details/TV: Tuesday at Kansas City, 4:30 p.m., Channel 11:

The Royals’ Salvador Perez celebrates his two-run home run in the fourth inning in front of San Francisco Giants catcher Andrew Susac on August 10 at Kauffman Stadium. (Photo: John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

The Royals’ Salvador Perez celebrates his two-run home run in the fourth inning in front of San Francisco Giants catcher Andrew Susac on August 10 at Kauffman Stadium. (Photo: John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Before the 2014 MLB season even launched, Vegas Insider had the Kansas City Royals at a generous 50-1 odds of winning the World Series. A pre-season preview by BleacherReport.com was a bit more generous: 35-1. “The Kansas City Royals’ last World Series title in 1985 was also the last time the team reached the postseason,” the post read. “If they can avoid the offensive struggles that plagued them in the first half last year and someone steps forward at the back of the rotation, they have an outside chance to snap that playoff drought in 2014.” They struggled offensively, no one stepped up in the back of the rotation … and here they are. The Giants were 25-1 World Series favorites by Bleacher Report, but just 20-1 by Vegas. “The good news is that Matt Cain looked like an ace once again in the second half (last season) … a bounce-back season from newcomer Michael Morse could be enough to make the offense a legitimate weapon. There are a lot of questions, but if nothing else, it’s an even-numbered year, and the Giants have done pretty well in those of late.” That last assessment, at least, turned out to be legit in describing how the Giants survived without the injured Cain or Morse. All in all, a double wild-card World Series is a first since the Angels knocked out the Giants in 2002.

Giants mangaer Bruce Bochy comes out to challenge an umpires call during the series against the Royals in August. (Photo: John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

Giants mangaer Bruce Bochy comes out to challenge an umpires call during the series against the Royals in August. (Photo: John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)

This is also the first time two teams have been in the final round without 90 regular-season wins (in a non-strike-shortened season). There could be something to the fact that they played each other – a three-game series Aug. 8-10. The Royals, right in the middle of winning 12 of 13 from July 30 to Aug. 11, beat Madison Bumgardner 4-2 the first night, had James Shields pitch a four-hit, 5-0 shutout against Tim Hudson the next night, and capped it off with a 7-4 win over Tim Lincecum – with Greg Holland saving the first and last games. The average attendance for that weekend series: Just more than 30,000 in the 37,901-seat Kauffman Stadium. Maybe they should move this to nearby Arrowhead Stadium (79,400). Oddsmakers have made the Royals a 5-6 favorite, perhaps because of the home-field advantage afforded them by Mike Trout’s All-Star MVP performance in leading the American League to victory. So you can’t say the Angels, who helped ushered the Royals through their 8-0 playoff run, haven’t played a major part in this.

The series continues (all on Channel 11):
Game 2 at Kansas City: Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
Game 3 at San Francisco: Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Game 4 at San Francisco: Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
If necessary: Game 5 at San Francisco: Sunday at 4 p.m.
THE REST OF THE WEEK INCLUDES:

USC, now the only Pac-12 team with four conference wins, hits the road to Utah  (Saturday, 7 p.m., FS1), as the 5-1 Utes come off a double-OT win at Oregon State last week … UCLA shouldn’t get altitude sickness in a game at Colorado (Saturday, 11 a.m., Pac-12 Network) … The Kings end a six-game home run with contests against Buffalo (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.) and Columbus (Sunday, 1 p.m.) … and the last of the NBA exhibitions are over when  the Lakers face Sacramento in Las Vegas (Friday, 7 p.m.) and the Clippers are at Staples Center against Portland (Friday at 7:30 p.m.). Here’s how it lays out.

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