Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Madison Bumgarner

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Up stood Madison Bumgarner at 8:46 p.m. CT, lurking in the San Francisco Giants' bullpen like a mythical creature: the wingspan of a Cthulhu, the power of a Minotaur, the snarl of a Werewolf. He entered Game 7 of the World Series 11 minutes later in the bottom of the fifth inning, and the Giants' hopes for a third championship in five years rode on the power of his left arm.

Over the next 85 minutes, Bumgarner did what Bumgarner does, even in an unfamiliar relief-pitching role: completely shut down teams, rob them of their will and skill, and deliver gold-and-diamond rings to the modern dynasty by the Bay.

The Giants beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 to win the World Series at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night in an action-packed, tense, crackerjack of a ballgame that featured both teams' managers using their top-end relief pitchers to turn a back-and-forth early outing into a scoreboard replete with zeroes in the late innings.

At the center of it all – at the center of everything this postseason – stood Bumgarner, the 25-year-old from North Carolina who in his five major league seasons already has established himself as one of the great pitchers in postseason history. His numbers this October defy belief – 1.03 ERA in 52 2/3 innings – and Bumgarner saved his finest of his series MVP performance for a five-inning lockdown in Game 7 that earned him a save and his Giants the victory.

Working on just two days’ rest after throwing a four-hit shutout in Game 5, Bumgarner worked his way around a leadoff single to retire the Royals on a swinging strikeout by Lorenzo Cain in his first inning. From there, he cruised: a 1-2-3 frame in the sixth, another in the seventh, and the eighth, and finally the ninth, when he yielded a two-out single to Alex Gordon that center fielder Gregor Blanco compounded with a two-base error.

With Gordon on third, Salvador Perez popped a two-strike pitch into foul territory. Pablo Sandoval squeezed it for the final out, a capper to one of the most impressive postseason runs in baseball history.

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