With his team nursing a three-run lead and runners on second and third with no outs, San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner turned to his full assortment of pitches to get himself out of the biggest jam of the night Tuesday.
And make no mistake, the stuff was nasty. A fastball that hummed along at 92 mph. An 87-mph slider. A curve that hovered around 75 and occasionally dipped down to an unfair 67 mph.
Against a pitcher in the midst of a postseason road scoreless streak of 32 2/3 innings — a Major League record by nearly 10 innings — the Royals had no chance.
Bumgarner proceeded to strike out Alcides Escobar on a fastball. He then struck out Nori Aoki on a curve. And after he walked Lorenzo Cain, loading the bases, he reached back to throw an 86 mph slider that Hosmer could not resist. He bounced out to second, ending the threat.
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“That was a strikeout situation, so we were going for them and trying to keep them off the board,” said Bumgarner, who went 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA this season. “That’s one of my favorite things to do in baseball, to be able to work through a situation like that.”
Bumgarner got the victory by limiting the Royals to a run and three hits over seven innings. He also struck out five and walked only one in a timely 106-pitch effort that only enhanced the 25-year old’s sterling postseason resume.
Bumgarner, who tossed a complete-game shutout in the Wild Card Game against Pittsburgh and was named the most valuable player in the National League Championship Series against St. Louis, is now 3-0 in World Series play, and 3-1 in five starts this postseason with a 1.42 ERA.
“Some things are hard to explain in this game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, when asked about Bumgarner’s postseason success. “He’s been the other way, too, where he’s pitched well at home. But he’s comfortable on the road, and on a big stage with a loud crowd, he just keeps a maniacal focus. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever seen at it.”
Bumgarner wasn’t completely infallible on this night, however. One of his few mistakes was a 93 mph fastball on a 1-2 count that Salvador Perez smashed over the left-field wall for a homer in the seventh inning.
At that point, however, the Giants were still ahead 7-1. And true to form, he bounced right back to retire the next two batters, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, via a groundball and a flyball, stifling any hopes of a Royals comeback.
“He probably was upset with where the pitch was,” Bochy said. “But he doesn’t get flustered. He kept his poise.”