Like the San Francisco Giants’ 2014 season, Game 7 of the World Series came down to the wire.
The Giants edged out Kansas City 3-2 on the Royals’ home turf to take Game 7 and the club’s third World Series title in five years.
Even-year magic prevailed, fans may joke, after the team that once boasted the best record in baseball fell into a deep June and July swoon before knocking down the postseason door.
Washington and St. Louis posed little disturbance on their way to the title, but the Kansas City Royals took them to the brink. One run separated Major League Baseball’s champions from the runner ups facing a short, disappointing off season.
The final moments of the season were heart-attack inducing, but etched one left-handed pitcher into World Series lore.
The victory followed a stressful moment for the Giants. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Gordon doubled, then reached third, on a line drive off Madison Bumgarner that slipped up Gregor Blanco.
Bruce Bochy just felt relieved after the final play:
“Anything can happen. A bloop or wild pitch. There’s a man on third base there. (Madison Bumgarner) made some great pitches. He went after them, I’ll say that. I said wait a minute, you might want to mix it up here. But, that’s Madison.”
The first question asked of manager Bochy after Game 6’s loss was whether Bumgarner would start in the deciding Game 7.
Bumgarner had shut down the Royals in Game 5 and allowed one home run in his Game 1 start, but Bochy stuck with Tim Hudson and snuck Bumgarner in the bullpen. Just in case.
Hudson pitched just 1-2/3 innings, just one more out than Peavy dealt in Tuesday’s massacre. He gave up the Royals’ only two runs in the second inning when Billy Butler lead of the inning with a single, Alex Gordon doubled him home and Omar Infante hit a sac fly send Gordon home from third.
Jeremy Affeldt took over, and kept the Royals to one hit over 2-1/3 innings. But then, Bumgarner.
On two days rest after his nine-inning Game 5 shutout, Big Country — the eventual World Series MVP — pitched five innings in relief for the first time since the 2010 NLCS.
Bochy said Bumgarner, who had pitched 16 innings thus far in the Series, was more than willing to come out of the bullpen:
“He kept telling me, he said, ‘I’m good, I’m good, I’m telling you, I’m ready to go.’ He said just put me in any time, and it really couldn’t have worked out better. I know Huddy had his struggles, but the plan was to use Jeremy (Affeldt) early and hopefully get to the fifth inning and get our horses out there, and we rode them.”
In those five innings, Bumgarner disrupted destiny, easing a stressed San Francisco into jubilation and shaking the baseball world.
He allowed two hits, no runs, and sealed his fate as one of the best World Series pitchers in history.
Bumgarner said he wasn’t certain he would take the mound tonight:
“There wasn’t a whole lot of talk. I knew that if something happened early there was probably a lot better chance of me getting in there … This is as good as it gets. World Series Game 7. It’s pretty stressful at the same time.”
When Sandoval caught that final pop-up, the 25-year-old from Hickory, N.C. sealed a 3-0 World Series record to cap an undefeated, five-win postseason.
Bumgarner now holds a 0.25 World Series ERA after allowing just one run in 36 innings.
Key members of the Killer Ps — Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence — started both of the Giants’ scoring rallies. Sandoval got on base in all four of his at bats, Pence, twice to set up Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford with the three runs that would send the Giants to the winner’s stand.
Sandoval had to be the runner up for World Series MVP. He notched 12 hits against throughout the Series.
The score stood at 3-2 for most of the game, pitting the two clubs into a bullpen duel.
The Giants erased a nine-game streak in which the home team won Game 7 of the World Series.