Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bumgarner Dominates in Relief as Giants Win World Series

SF wins series 4-3

In a postseason where the Kansas City Royals made history going from rags to riches, it was Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants who pushed their way to the top of the mountain and chiseled their names into history forevermore.

Bumgarner was fantastic. The Giants unwavering. After falling to the Royals 10-0 in Game 6, the Giants stared at an uncertain script in Game 7. The stats and momentum all pointed in Kansas City's favor. No road team had won a World Series after losing Game 6 since the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. Home teams had won the previous nine Game 7's in World Series history, and the last time the Giants played in a World Series Game 7, the Angles cruised 4-1 to cap off a comeback in the 2002 Fall Classic.

Plus this series was feeling a lot like the 1985 series, where the Royals erased a 3-2 series deficit to win it all in Games 6 and 7, topping their rivals from down I-70, the St. Louis Cardinals.

So many ghosts of World Series past, yet the Giants were Ghostbusters two days before Halloween. They were unwavering to the pressure of the moment, playing with the same calm demeanor of their future Hall of Fame manager, Bruce Bouchy.

Bouchy had a plan and it worked to perfection, even almost too perfect.

The Giants grabbed an early 2-0 lead when Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford hit Sac Fly's to the outfield to drive in both Pablo Sandoval, who started the inning getting hit by a pitch, and Hunter Pence, who singled.

Bouchy gave the ball back to Tim Hudson, the 39-year-old veteran who always wanted to pitch in this moment, but never got the chance until this postseason. Hudson had to know he was on a severe pitch count. Any mistake, or sign of struggling he was going to get pulled.

Hudson gave up a lead of single to Billy Butler and a RBI double to Alex Gordon to cut the lead in half, 2-1. After Hudson hit Salvador Perez on the knee with a fastball, Omar Infante tied the game on a sac fly to center tying the game at two. Bouchy knew he had to make his move and did so taking Hudson out of the game.

Perhaps it was a little earlier than he would have liked, but Bouchy again pushed the right buttons. He inserted Jeremy Affeldt and the lefty didn't disappoint shutting down the Royals for two and a third innings in relief -- his longest outing of the season.

Soon the Giants regained the lead, as it turned out for good this time in the top of the fourth. Jeremy Guthrie really began to waver in the fourth. He served up singles to Sandoval and Pence before being lifted for Kelvin Herrera who couldn't shut the door. Morse lined a pitch off the end of the bat into right field, dropping it in front of Nori Aoki to push in Sandoval with the go-ahead run to make it 3-2.

Now the stage was set for the master.

Bouchy rolled a big dice earlier in this series when he decided to hold Bumgarner for Game 5 instead of pitching him in Game 4. If he had Bumgarner would have been on three days rest to start Game 7 if necessary.  Bouchy's gamble paid off.

Bumgarner was phenomenal in Game 7. In an era where coaches worry about pitch counts, stress pitches, and innings for young starters Bumgarner broke the mold this postseason. He came into the game with the plan to throw only 40-50 pitches, or three innings of work. Instead he went out there and dominated as if he were on full rest, not two short days of rest.

He confused the Royals with his high fastball. The Royals were impatient and Bumgarner took full advantage. Bumgarner struck out four batters and jammed many more over five innings for one of the most dominate relief appearances by a starter in World Series history.

Even in the ninth inning with his pitch count approaching 70 he found a way to shut the door on the storybook Royals. He gave up a base hit to Alex Gordon, which turned into a triple when the ball skipped away from Gregor Blanco and bounced around the outfield wall. Still, Bumgarner didn't waver. He got Salvador Perez to chase a high fastball for strike one; got him to swing again at high heat for strike two, and on pitch number 68, Bumgarner jammed Perez into a pop out at third base in foul territory to win the World Series.

It was one of the most impressive outings in history. Bumgarner is now 4-0 with a historic 0.25 ERA and a save in the World Series. This postseason, he pitched to a 1.03 ERA in seven games, six starts with a record of 4-1. He was deserving of the MVP award having carried an entire team on his back for one month.

 As for the Royals, they have nothing to be ashamed of. They had a tremendous run that captivated the hearts of fans across the country. They were 90 feet away from keeping the dream alive, but they ran into a buzz-saw in Bumgarner.

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