Mad’s World: Giants Ride Bumgarner To Title

It's a rare series when a starting pitcher truly has the biggest influence of any player on the field. But in the 2014 World Series, San Francisco Giants' left-hander Madison Bumgarner clearly was the difference between the Giants and the Kansas City Royals. His brilliance led the Giants to a Game Seven win over the Royals and a third World Championship for San Francisco in just five years.

World Series: Bumgarner Historically Great In Game Seven Thriller

Score: Giants 3 – Royals 2

Series: Giants win World Series

Game Hero: Madison Bumgarner, 5 IP, 2 H, 4 K in relief

Game Summary: In a World Series that featured two evenly matched teams, there was one factor that separated the winner from the loser – the San Francisco Giants had Madison Bumgarner and the Kansas City Royals didn’t. Bumgarner, who threw a complete game shutout in Game Five, came back on short rest to toss five shutout innings in relief, guiding the Giants to their third World Series championship in five years. The Giants are the first team to win three titles in five years since the 1996-2000 New York Yankees won four.

Before the game, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy was asked if Bumgarner would be available, and, if so, how long he’d be able to last. At first, Bochy said 20-30 pitches. Then he stretched it to 40. By the end of the press conference, he was up to 60 pitches for Bumgarner. But even in Bochy’s wildest dreams, he couldn’t have possibly envisioned what his ace was able to give him in relief. Five shutout innings. Sixty-eight pitches thrown. Fifty strikes; 18 balls. Two hits allowed – one to the first batter he faced and the other to the second-to-last. Bumgarner took control of a one-run game and never let the Royals even dream of tying the game until a crazy sequence with two-outs in the bottom of the ninth.

At the start of the game, the pitching match-up was focused on two veterans: right-hander Jeremy Guthrie and Tim Hudson. Both pitchers were on short leashes and when both ran into trouble early, it was clear that neither would last deep into the game.

Guthrie was the first to blink, allowing two runs in the top of the second. He hit Pablo Sandoval to start the inning and then gave up back-to-back singles to Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt to load the bases with no outs. Michael Morse delivered with a sacrifice fly to notch the first run of the game. Pence took third on the play, and Brandon Crawford took advantage by bringing Pence home on another sacrifice fly to bring the score to 2-0.

Hudson carried that lead into the bottom of the second, but he immediately let the Royals back into the game. Billy Butler started the inning with a single and he scored when the next hitter, Alex Gordon, hit a drive into the gap. The lumbering Butler got a good read on the ball and scored just ahead of the throw. Hudson then hit Salvador Perez with a pitch in the leg. Perez was in a lot of pain but he managed to continue. After a Mike Moustakas fly-out moved Gordon to third, Omar Infante tied the game with a sacrifice fly. Hudson then allowed a single to Alcides Escobar that ended his night after just 1.2 innings.

With the Royals threatening to break the tie, Bochy went to his left-handed set-up man Jeremy Affeldt early in the game. Affeldt got the left-handed hitting Nori Aoki to ground into a force out, ending the Royals’ threat. Kansas City would get only two more runners in scoring position the rest of the game.

Guthrie pitched a quick one-two-three top of the third, and the Royals looked to have a little momentum heading into the bottom of the inning. Lorenzo Cain led-off the inning with a single against Affeldt. Eric Hosmer then hit a hard groundball up the middle that looked like a base-hit off of the bat. Rookie second baseman Joe Panik made a spectacular diving play to field the ball and then flipped the ball to second with his glove. Crawford made a quick turn on the relay to first. Hosmer, who dove headfirst into the bag, was originally called safe, but the Giants challenged the play and the call was overturned, resulting in a double-play. Affeldt then retired Butler to end the inning.

In the top of the fourth, Sandoval reached base once again to start a run-scoring inning for the Giants. He hit a slow groundball up the middle that Infante fielded with his bare-hand. Infante slipped as he tried to make the throw, bouncing it to first and Sandoval was safe with an infield single. Pence followed with a single to give the Giants two-out with none out. Royals’ manager Ned Yost elected to stick with Guthrie to face Belt, who hit a flyball to left. Sandoval tagged up and slid into third just ahead of the throw.

At this point, Yost went to the first of his three star late-inning relievers. Kelvin Herrera got ahead of Morse on an 0-2 count, but he couldn’t put Morse away. Morse singled to right to score Sandoval. Herrera was able to get out of the inning without further scoring, but the damage was done with the Giants holding a 3-2 lead.

Affeldt remained in the game in the bottom of the fourth. Once again, the Royals were able to reach base against him to start the inning, but once again, a double-play ended the threat. Gordon was hit-by-a-pitch but was quickly erased when Perez hit into the 4-6-3.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Royals’ kryptonite – Bumgarner – trotted to the mound. At first, he looked almost human, falling behind the count and allowing a base-hit to the first batter he faced, Infante. The Royals elected to bunt Infante over to second, giving Bumgarner a free out and, perhaps, allowing him to settle into the game. He retired Aoki on a line-out to left and then struck-out Cain to end the inning. The Royals wouldn’t reach base again until two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

The Royals’ bullpen lived up to its advanced billing, shutting down the Giants after that Morse hit in the fourth. Herrera (2.2 IP), Wade Davis (2 IP) and Greg Holland (1 IP) combined to limit the Giants to four hits and no walks in 5.2 innings pitched. They struck-out nine. One of those hits allowed was to Sandoval in the eighth inning. His double was a record-breaker, giving him the most hits for any player in a single post-season in MLB history.

As Bumgarner knifed through the Royals’ line-up, Kansas City had to be hoping that the Giants would take him out at some point. Instead, they stuck with him even as his pitch count climbed above 40 and then 50 and then 60.

In the bottom of the ninth, Bumgarner faced the 4-5-6 hitters in the KC line-up. He struck-out Hosmer and got Butler on a pop-up to collect two quick outs. Gordon then came to the plate representing the Royals’ last hope. He lined a pitch into left center that centerfielder Gregor Blanco charged in on and then pulled up late when he realized he couldn’t make the catch. The ball skipped past Blanco and went all the way to the wall. Left fielder Juan Perez had trouble picking up the ball and when it was all over, Gordon was standing on third.

That brought to the plate Perez, who got the Royals going early this post-season when he collected the walk-off base-hit against the Oakland A’s in the bottom of the 12th in the AL Wild Card. Perez battled Bumgarner to a 2-2 count, but then he popped up into foul territory. Sandoval squeezed the ball and the Giants were once again World Champions.

Bumgarner was named the MVP of the series after turning in one of the most impressive World Series pitching performances in MLB history. Although he wasn't credited with the win in Game Seven (it went to Affeldt), Bumgarner did earn the save to go 2-0 with a save in the series. He allowed just one run in 21 innings this World Series and was clearly the difference in the series. The 25-year-old southpaw is now 4-0 in his career in the World Series and has three rings to show for it.

In what could be his final series in a Giants’ uniform, free-agent-to-be Sandoval turned in a memorable series of his own. Sandoval hit .429 during the World Series and reached base four times in Game Seven. Pence was also a star for San Francisco this series, batting .444 and collecting two hits in Game Seven.

The Royals have nothing to hang their heads about, as the team defied all expectations to come within 90-feet of their first World Series title since 1985. Most of this young Kansas City squad is set to return next season, although Kansas City will likely lose number one starter James Shields to free agency. After the game ended, an appreciative Royals’ crowd chanted “Let’s Go Royals” for several minutes as the Giants celebrated.

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