“For some reason I keep getting real lucky in this time of year,” Madison Bumgarner told Fox’s Ken Rosenthal after pitching a four-hit shutout in Game 5 of the World Series. “So, I’ll take it.”
That was after Bumgarner doffed his cap and thanked the crowd, who showered the 25-year-old ace with “M-V-P” chants after his latest postseason gem. If Bumgarner’s words were humble, his numbers are simply humbling. We’ll get to those later, but first let’s explore a glorious 2014 AT&T Park finale.
Bumgarner the Badass
Tom Verducci tried to give Bumgarner a nickname based on wingspan and his mechanics: California Condor. If we’re forced to stick with the animal theme, I’d prefer Boa Constrictor, because he squeezed the life from the Royals from the first inning and crushed their ribcages and spines in the ninth.
Poor Billy Butler, who sat through two games while Ned Yost waited for the perfect time to bring him off the bench. Yost managed these three games like a kid at a school dance who spent all night planning how he was going to ask the girl of his dreams to dance, and by the time he finally walked up to his crush and made his move, the lights turned on and song stopped midway through.
Butler came up to lead off the eighth with the Royals behind 2-0, and saw three pitches. Fastball on the inside corner, outside changeup fouled off, then a 76 mph curveball that flopped across the outside corner (or close to it). Welcome to San Francisco, Billy. You’ve just been Bumgarner’d.
Bumgarner did everything perfectly. He didn’t walk one batter. He struck out eight. He gave up three singles and a double, and the double should’ve been a single. He threw 41 of his 52 fastballs for strikes while moving it up, down, in and out. He got swings-and-misses on six of his 38 cutters (or, as they’re known around these parts, “slutters”). He threw 19 conventional curveballs (six whiffs on those, which is just a ridiculous ratio). He also threw one slow curve (65 mph) in the fourth inning to Lorenzo Cain. Cain took it for a ball before grounding out two pitches later.
“He’s disgusting,” said Mike Moustakas. “He throws three, four pitches that are all plus and commands all of them well. Just when you think you’ve thought something or you’ve figured something out, he does the exact opposite and just kind of messes with you.”
What’s so amazing about this performance is that the pressure would’ve crushed just about every other pitcher, including most aces (cough, Clayton, cough). The Giants had no choice but to win this game. James Shields pitched really well, getting plenty of whiffs himself (12 of his 20 came via a nasty cutter that he aimed at the lefties’ back feet). If Bumgarner was just a little off, the Giants would’ve needed a #RallyZito-esque miracle to pull out this series.
Of course, there’s still a ton of work left. Anyone who remembers the 1987 NLCS or 2002 World Series knows that all too well. But whatever happens, Bumgarner’s 2014 postseason ranks up there with the best individual performances in the history of the sport. His World Series resume is now top 10 all-time. And all the while, with all that success and his team’s championship hopes resting on his abnormally broad shoulders, he looked like this the entire time.
That’s a closeup of his face before the game’s final pitch, a slutter about six inches outside the zone that Hosmer (easily the Royals’ best hitter in this postseason) could’ve taken for ball four but dribbled to Pablo Sandoval instead. Buster Posey was all smiles when he came out to congratulate his buddy, and Bumgarner looked like a man who’d just wheeled the trash and recycling cans out to the curb.
- Bumgarner’s 2014 Postseason: 47.2 IP, 4-1 record, 1.13 ERA, 41 strikeouts, six walks, 0.46 WHIP
- World Series Bumgarner: 31.0 IP, 4-0 record, 0.29 ERA, 27 strikeouts, five walks, 0.55 WHIP
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could be better than Bumgarner in the postseason. In my lifetime, it’s Bumgarner and Curt Schilling. More seasoned fans could point to Sandy Koufax or Whitey Ford, maybe. I’m probably missing a few, but the list is shorter than Bumgarner’s patience with Yasiel Puig.
Juan Perez hits a double for Oscar Taveras
The 22-year-old St. Louis Cardinals phenom and his girlfriend died in an automobile crash in the Dominican Republic, and the news of Taveras’ passing spread at the beginning of this game. Perez knew Taveras well, played winter ball with him and considered him a friend.
Giants supporters know Taveras better than most fans who don’t root for the Cardinals, even though his major league career was so short. He hit a home run in his first big league game off Yusmeiro Petit, and he took Jean Machi deep in the NLCS. Taveras had what appeared to be an All-Star career ahead of him with a Hall-of-Fame ceiling. He was that good.
Perez is a 28-year-old who’s played in 660 minor league games. His major league OPS is under .600, and he pinch-ran for Travis Ishikawa in the sixth inning after Ishikawa collected his second hit of the game. Perez is on these rosters for his glove, but lately he’s been contributing with the bat. He broke this game open tonight.
This one was still in the balance in the eighth inning. Joe Buck was pleading for the Royals to put a dent in Bumgarner’s suit of invincibility in his own Joe Bucky kind of way. The Giants were on a similar mission: figure out a way to break the Royals’ vaunted “HDH” trio of hard-throwing relievers. They knocked Kelvin Herrera out with consecutive singles by Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, and Wade Davis struck Brandon Belt out looking with a rude 94 mph fastball on the outside corner.
Up stepped Perez, who should’ve received congratulations for a great at-bat against Davis — even if it had ended like Belt’s. He went from 0-2 to 3-2, and on the seventh pitch he came closer to hitting a home run than anyone else in these three games at AT&T Park.
That Double was 4 U Oscar! I’ll remember the Good Times. God Bless U Bro. I’ll miss U man. My condolences! pic.twitter.com/vjQaZiymaF
— Juan Carlos Perez (@juan_perez24) October 27, 2014
— Brandon Crawford had three RBIs in the most Giants-y fashion possible — a groundout to score Pence, a bad-ball bloop single to center to knock in Sandoval (who reached base on a single that came on a pitch that was out of the zone as well), and a flare down the left field line to drive in Perez for the game’s final run. The Giants won 5-0, by the way. I probably should’ve mentioned that earlier, but you all watched the game.
— The Giants made two amazing defensive plays to end the fourth inning. Sandoval reacted beautifully to a weird hop off the lip of the grass on a Hosmer grounder, then Belt ranged far to his right on a ball hit by Salvador Perez and raced to first base — his feet-first slide beat Perez to the bag and somehow no one was hurt on the play.
— Much respect to Salvador Perez, who seems to be the only guy alive who can hit Bumgarner in the postseason. His liner to Juan Perez was the hardest ball the Royals hit all night.
— Besides the strikeout against Davis, Belt played a very nice game. It only took him until Oct. 26 to bunt against the shift!
— Ishikawa made a late break on Omar Infante’s base hit to turn it into a double. Bumgarner picked him up with two strikeouts: he finished off Dyson with a filthy curve, after a curve that came close to brushing against the inside corner was called a ball. Then he mowed down Shields on a similar pitch.
— Friendly reminder that Fresh Brewed Tees made these t-shirts just for nights like this.
— “I don’t know, I thought he was just alright tonight. He didn’t get a hit,” said Brandon Belt. “He needs to step his game up a little bit.” Belt followed that up by calling Bumgarner amazing, but it’s still pretty funny. You know Bumgarner wanted so badly to crush a home run tonight.
— Bruce Bochy said Bumgarner would be available for Game 7 in relief, as the Giants are bringing the cavalry. Jake Peavy starts Game 6 and Tim Hudson will get the ball in Game 7 (if necessary). Ryan Vogelsong had some of his best stuff in a long time in a hard-luck Game 4 outing, and already went to Bochy to let him know he’d love to help out if needed. Tim Lincecum’s back might be close to 100% by Tuesday. Yusmeiro Petit pitched three innings yesterday, but that was after nine days of rest. And then there’s Bumgarner. Ned Yost made a wackadoo comment about hoping to see this series go seven games on Saturday night, but there’s no way the Royals want to see Bumgarner again.