KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Up stood Madison Bumgarner at 8:46 p.m. CT, lurking in the San Francisco Giants' bullpen like a mythical creature: the wingspan of a Cthulhu, the power of a Minotaur, the snarl of a Werewolf. He entered Game 7 of the World Series 11 minutes later in the bottom of the fifth inning, and the Giants' hopes for a third championship in five years rode on the power of his left arm.
Over the next 85 minutes, Bumgarner did what Bumgarner does, even in an unfamiliar relief-pitching role: completely shut down teams, rob them of their will and skill, and deliver gold-and-diamond rings to the modern dynasty by the Bay.
The Giants beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 to win the World Series at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night in an action-packed, tense, crackerjack of a ballgame that featured both teams' managers using their top-end relief pitchers to turn a back-and-forth early outing into a scoreboard replete with zeroes in the late innings.
At the center of it all – at the center of everything this postseason – stood Bumgarner, the 25-year-old from North Carolina who in his five major league seasons already has established himself as one of the great pitchers in postseason history. His numbers this October defy belief – 1.03 ERA in 52 2/3 innings – and Bumgarner saved his finest of his series MVP performance for a five-inning lockdown in Game 7 that earned him a save and his Giants the victory.
Working on just two days’ rest after throwing a four-hit shutout in Game 5, Bumgarner worked his way around a leadoff single to retire the Royals on a swinging strikeout by Lorenzo Cain in his first inning. From there, he cruised: a 1-2-3 frame in the sixth, another in the seventh, and the eighth, and finally the ninth, when he yielded a two-out single to Alex Gordon that center fielder Gregor Blanco compounded with a two-base error.
With Gordon on third, Salvador Perez popped a two-strike pitch into foul territory. Pablo Sandoval squeezed it for the final out, a capper to one of the most impressive postseason runs in baseball history.
Bumgarner was in the game for as long as he was only because of Giants starter Tim Hudson's struggles. The starting pitchers lasted a combined five innings, with Giants manager Bruce Bochy yanking Hudson after a shaky 1 2/3 in which he allowed a pair of runs on a Gordon double and an Omar Infante sacrifice fly. It knotted the game at two after a pair of Giants sacrifice flies in the top of the second off Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie staked San Francisco to an early advantage and quieted the decibel-smashing levels of the 40,535-person crowd.
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Royals manager Ned Yost pulled Guthrie in the fourth inning with runners on first and third and one out. Kelvin Herrera, one of the Royals' trio of ace relievers, allowed a broken-bat single to Mike Morse that scored Sandoval for what became the winning run.
Far from a classic series, Game 7 turned into a classic affair, tense throughout, emotions volleying between early excitement and late resignation. Despite the yeoman's effort from Herrera (2 2/3 scoreless innings), Wade Davis (two scoreless) and Greg Holland (a zero in the top of the ninth), Bumgarner was even better, following game-winner Jeremy Affeldt's 2 1/3 scoreless innings with the neutering of a Royals lineup that a day earlier erupted for 10 runs in a Game 6 blowout.
What was supposed to be a matchup of managerial wits turned into the reliance on one incredible arm and one luminescent performance, reminiscent of Randy Johnson coming on to win Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in relief after taking the victory in Game 6.
Madison Bumgarner was no myth. He was the most real thing in the building.