All eyes were on the San Francisco bullpen as the Giants batted in the top of the fifth inning in game seven of the World Series on Wednesday night.
Giants ace lefthander Madison Bumgarner began to warm up. And the 40,535 in Kauffman Stadium and the 25 players, seven coaches and two managers in each dugout knew what that meant.
Bumgarner, working on just two days rest, added to his World Series lore by pitching five scoreless innings — and retiring 14 in a row at one point — as the Giants won the World Series in seven games with a 3-2 victory over the Royals.
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“This is as good as it gets … World Series, game seven,” said Bumgarner, who was voted the series Most Valuable Player after recording two wins and the save on Wednesday, as the Giants won their third World Series in five years.
“It’s pretty stressful at the same time,” he said.
The Royals threw a scare into Bumgarner with two outs in the ninth when Alex Gordon lined a single to left center that centerfielder Gregor Blanco overran. The ball skipped to the wall for a two-base error as Gordon easily reached third before he was stopped by third base coach Mike Jirschele.
“I wasn’t sure what happened,” Bumgarner said of Blanco’s error. “But I was starting to get a little nervous. (Gordon) can run a little bit, and that’s a big outfield, so I was just wanting someone to get it and get it in, which they did in plenty of time. But it was a little nerve-wracking though.
Salvador Perez fell behind 1-2, swinging at some high pitches before Bumgarner ended the game by retiring him on a 2-2 pop foul to third.
“I knew Perez was going to want to do something big,” Bumgarner said. “We tried to use that aggressiveness and throw our pitches up in the zone. It’s a little bit higher than high, I guess, and fortunately I was able to get some past him.”
Former Royal Jeremy Affeldt was the winning pitcher, as he worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Tim Hudson, but all the talk afterward was about Bumgarner, who pitched a record 52 2/3 postseason innings and lowered his career World Series ERA to a record 0.25.
“He had a tremendous playoffs,” said Royals designated hitter Billy Butler. “He put his team on his back and carried them in this World Series. He was definitely the difference maker for them. You have to tip your hat off to him, to come back on short rest.
“He dominated every time he was on the mound. That’s what true competitors and true aces do. That’s what sets him apart from everybody else. He deserves (the MVP) the way he pitched.”
And was he ever effective. Bumgarden had thrown 117 pitches in Sunday’s 5-0 complete game win over the Royals in game five, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy hoped to get 50 to 60 pitches from him when he entered the game with a 3-2 lead.
Bumgarner threw 68 pitches — 50 for strikes — in disabling the Royals’ bid for a come-from-behind victory. He finished the World Series by pitching 21 innings, allowing nine hits, one run, striking out 17 with a 0.43 ERA, the lowest in a single World Series among pitchers with at least 15 innings since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax compiled an 0.38 for the 1965 Dodgers.
“I was just concentrating on making pitches,” Bumgarner said. “I wasn’t thinking about how many innings I was going to go or how many pitches or anything of that, just thinking about getting outs. Fortunately for me we had some pretty quick ones, and that gave me a chance to stay out there.”
Affeldt had completed the longest postseason outing of his career in relief of Hudson, who worked just 1 2/3 innings. Affeldt has now recorded a scoreless outing in 22 consecutive postseason games, the second-longest in history, trailing only Mariano Rivera’s 23.
Only three teams have won game sevens with starters who went shorter distances than Hudson’s: the 1924 Senators (Curly Ogden), the 1925 Pirates (Vic Aldridge) and the 1947 Yankees (Spec Shea).