Gregor Blanco

Bumgarner still a World Series star as Giants rout Royals in Game 1

Madison Bumgarner World Series

Here’s how you know that a World Series win came easy … fans were clamoring for Tim Lincecum in the eighth and ninth innings tonight.

The San Francisco Giants are three wins away from their third championship in five years after a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 of the World Series. Tonight’s matchup of aces was one-sided from the start, as the Giants jumped on James Shields early and knocked him out of the game after just three innings.

Madison Bumgarner gave up a run for the first time in three World Series starts. It came in his seventh inning, as he lowered his 2014 postseason ERA to 1.40. However, his World Series ERA rose to 0.41 — dude seriously needs to get it together.

Despite all of this postseason evidence to the contrary, Bumgarner does get nervous. The only difference between his nervousness and the nervousness displayed by just about everyone else — like “Big Game” Shields, for instance — is Bumgarner almost always seems to push through it. And once he gets past those rare times when he’s not at his sharpest, he usually calms down and goes back to pitching incredibly well.

That’s what happened tonight, as Bumgarner got a three-run first inning lead and got better as the game went along. His grunting was picked up by Fox’s borderline intrusive microphones, and he threw a curveball that traveled less than 70 mph (which generally only happens in March), but otherwise this was exactly what we’ve come to expect from the 25-year-old who is quickly putting together one of the best playoff resumes of any starting pitcher in baseball history.

Some were worried about Bumgarner coming into this game with 249 total innings since Spring Training, but besides the seventh inning solo home run from Salvador Perez, all his trouble came early.

— Gregor Blanco made a sparkling defensive play going back on Eric Hosmer’s drive to right-center after Bumgarner’s back-foot slider to Lorenzo Cain came in a little too literally.

— Billy Butler, who hit a two-run homer against Bumgarner when these teams faced in August, led off the second with a single. Bumgarner answered by getting Alex Gordon to line out to Brandon Crawford before catching a comebacker from Perez, double-clutching, and throwing to second to start the double play that ended that inning.

— When Crawford’s error was followed by a double by Mike Moustakas to put runners on second and third with no outs in the third, it looked like Bumgarner’s streaks (no runs allowed on the road in the postseason, no runs allowed in the World Series) were in jeopardy. The TV announcers kept remarking how Bumgarner was unable to finish hitters up to that point, then he struck out Elcides Escobar on a fastball and Nori Aoki on a curveball. Bumgarner wouldn’t give in to Cain with an open base, and after walking him he got Hosmer to ground out to second on a first-pitch slider.

That was the first of 12 straight hitters retired by Bumgarner, who in some ways has to be considered the most valuable player in all of baseball right now … and he didn’t even get to hit today!

Blanco’s big day

Starting off the game with a single was huge against Shields, who needed a few breaks that the Giants were in no mood to donate. It’s really difficult to overstate the importance of that hit, which kept a rambunctious crowd from fully letting loose. He kept them quiet with play after rangy play in center, plays Angel Pagan would’ve had a very, very difficult time making. His walk to “drive” in a run in the fourth was a spirit-crusher for the Kansas City patrons.

Slugger Pence

I was walking home after running some errands downtown this afternoon, listening to the expanded pregame show. Tom Tolbert twice brought up how he expected to see a home run from Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval or Hunter Pence at some point in this series, in conversations with Henry Schulman and Duane Kuiper.

Nice call, Mr. T.

Pence unloaded on the sixth fastball he saw from Shields, sending Cain sprinting back to the center field fence. Guaranteed the fans at Kauffman Stadium expected to see Cain pull off some defensive wizardry, but not that time.

Pence’s leadoff double in the fourth started the rally that gave the Giants some breathing room. Brandon Belt worked a walk that showed just how far gone Shields was by that point, especially when his wild pitch moved Pence to third (pretty awful technique by Perez, to be fair). Then Michael Morse lined a single to center, Shields’ night was over, and Morse’s face was pure joy.

Michael Morse Giants World Series

Extra BASGs

— At this point “Big Game James” is more of a participation award (like every kid on every tee ball team getting a trophy) than an actual nickname, right?

— Does Tim Flannery detest Buster Posey to the point where he can’t stand to hang out with him for a few minutes? Because Flannery keeps sending him in completely unnecessary situations, even though Posey runs like a guy who’s caught over 1,000 innings this season.

— It’s like Flannery spends so much time poring over scouting reports that he forgets to think about the speed of his own players. Blanco, a fast runner who started the play at second base, gets held at third on Posey’s single. That was because the ball was hit to Gordon, and Gordon is one of the best left fielders in the land. Then Flannery sees the ball take what seemed like a fortuitous bounce on Aoki’s side of the field, and suddenly Posey has the ability to score from first on a double to the corner.

— But hey, for all the talk about how the Royals are a team that you can’t make mistakes against, the Giants were able to make a few and get away with them just fine. Aoki totally misplayed Joe Panik’s triple, by the way. Amazing outfield defense, my (expletive) champion blood.

— Sandoval went 2-for-5 and ran his streak of games reaching base to 24 (in the playoffs).

— The Giants seemed to think Hunter Strickland was tipping pitches, and he decimated three good hitters (Cain, Hosmer and Josh Willingham) with ease in the ninth. This team knows how to deal with relievers, which is why I stick to complaining about Posey getting waved around third.

— Quote from my father (via text): “Royals not so scary tonight. You need baserunners if you want to run the bases. I know this to be true. You may quote me.” Thanks, Dad.

— I wasn’t sure whether I loved or hated that “All About That Bass” montage Fox did at the beginning with both teams.

Hunter Pence base

Javier Lopez base dance

The players seemed to love it, so who am I to judge. Lopez did a nice job trolling the Royals when he allowed that single to the right-hander (Escobar) before erasing him with a double-play grounder from Aoki.

— Nice of Fox to do several dugout interviews, since everyone loves those. HEY, WHY ARE YOU SHOWING THAT GUY PITCH TO THE BATTER?!?! GO BACK TO SHOWING RAUL IBANEZ IN A HOODED SWEATSHIRT!!!

— Bumgarner does a lot of things that are fun to watch, but I’m starting to really dig those times when he slides to field a ball, spins to a perfect throwing position, and fires to first.

— The Giants have won their last three World Series Game 1s by a combined score of 26-11. Their combined scores in Game 2 from 2010 and 2012: 11-0.

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