Tim Hudson is still the San Francisco Giants’ scheduled starter for game seven of the World Series on Wednesday night against the Royals.
But Madison Bumgarner is lurking.
Bumgarner, the Giants master of the postseason, could pitch early, he could pitch in the middle innings, or he could pitch late.
But Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose staff was shelled 10-0 in game six Tuesday night, will waste little time turning to Bumgarner, who has allowed one run in 16 innings in two World Series wins over the Royals.
Bumgarner threw 117 pitches in beating the Royals 5-0 in Sunday’s game five, but Bochy was prepared to use him if the Royals hadn’t knocked out Giants starter Jake Peavy in a seven-run second inning.
“Yeah, I’ve already talked to Madison, and he says, ‘Listen, if you need me, in fact, I’m good to go. I’m ready to go.’ ” Bochy said before Tuesday’s game. “So he’s already come in and told me that. Right now he’ll be available if we need him.”
Bumgarner went seven innings in beating the Royals 7-1 in game one of the World Series, and he allowed just four hits while throwing 117 pitches on Sunday night.
Bochy gave no thought to starting Bumgarner on two days rest, even after Tuesday’s loss.
“This guy is human,” Bochy said. “You can’t push him that much. To start him is asking a lot. We have confidence in Huddy. He’s done a great job for us.”
Bumgarner hasn’t made a relief appearance since throwing two scoreless innings in game six of the 2010 National League Championship Series, but he said, “I’m not a big pitch-count guy.”
If Bumgarner were to pitch significant innings Wednesday night, it would be reminiscent of the 2001 World Series when Arizona’s Randy Johnson, after throwing 104 pitches in game six, came back the next night in relief. Johnson retired all four New York Yankees he faced in Arizona’s 3-2 victory in game seven.
Considering Bumgarner has thrown 264 innings this season, Bochy wasn’t sure whether a relief outing would consist of a batter, an inning or a select number of pitches.
“We’ll watch him and see how he’s doing out there,” Bochy said. “ I can’t tell you how far he could go or how many pitches. You read him and see how he’s doing. It’s the last game of the year, and it’s easier to push a guy the last game versus doing it twice. With two days off, I think he’ll get some work if needed.
“He’s a big, strong guy who, knock on wood, hasn’t had any arm issues. But it’s a credit to his conditioning. He uses his body well. He’s got great mechanics. He is resilient, and that’s why he’s able to log these innings, and that’s why at this stage of the game his stuff has not changed. He’s thrown the ball as well as he has all year.”
Bumgarner, 25, has a 4-0 career mark in World Series play with a record 0.29 ERA. He has been close to unbeatable in the postseason this year. In six starts, he is 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA, losing only to Washington in game three of the National League Division Series. He has struck out 41 batters in 47 2/3 innings and opponents are hitting .156 against him.
The prospect of Bumgarner, who was 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA in the regular season, pitching at some point in the game will reduce the margin of error for Royals pitchers, beginning with starter Jeremy Guthrie.
“My margin for error is going to be minimal either way,” Guthrie said. “My goal is always to put up as many zeros as I can. Our side respects and understands that every one of their pitchers is difficult. Every one of their pitchers are competitors whether it’s Tim Hudson, Bumgarner, the bullpen, (Yusmeiro Petit), all of these guys have pitched big innings.
“They’ve had tremendous careers, some of them longer than others, and each one of them is going to go out there and be difficult for us to hit. So nothing on my end or any of our pitchers’ end will change whether he is or is not available.”