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World Series #5: Believe in Bum

World Series Royals Giants BaseballRoyals manager Ned Yost still doesn’t believe. He has seen it with his own eyes twice, once in Kansas City in Game 1 and again in San Francisco in Game 5. But he doesn’t believe. Poor Ned is so alone. The delirious orange and black faithful at AT&T Park, the quiet upper-deck section reserved for Royals fans and the nation itself that  watched on TV certainly believe. They all believe in the power of MadBum the Great.

For nine innings, Madison Bumgarner totally baffled the Royals in a 5-0 victory to put the Giants one win away from continuing their even-year domination of the World Series. This was no fluke. Bumgarner’s masterful four-hitter, with 84 strikes in 117 pitches, was the first complete game World Series shutout since 2003. His World Series ERA in four starts is 0.29. His victims have been the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and the Royals. Omar Infante, who doubled in the fifth, was the only Royal to reach second base. The Royals third base coach was lonelier than the Maytag man. Bumgarner is the first Giant to toss a World Series shutout since 24-game winner Jack Sanford blanked the Yankees 2-0 in Game 2 of the 1962 World Series with the help of a solo homer by Willie McCovey.

Yet, Ned does not believe.

The Giants were leading 2-0 after four innings. Bumgarner had already retired 12 of the first 14 batters, five by strikeouts. There was no sign that was going to change. In the fifth, after Infante’s one-out double, the Royals suddenly had some life with Jarrod Dyson coming up and starting pitcher James Shields due to follow him. Time to get the bullpen going so you could pinch-hit for Shields assuming there would be at least one runner in scoring position when his turn came, right? Nope. Dyson struck out. Yost allowed Shields to bat, and the expected result occurred as the Royals pitcher also struck out. Bumgarner would go on to retire 12 of the next 13 batters. The Royals had their one threat, and Yost did nothing.

In his post-game news conference, Yost said all the right things about Bumgarner, but almost seemed to resent a question about whether he should have pinch-hit for Shields. Sure, it would mean going to the middle-relief part of the bullpen early, a scary idea for Royals fans after that unit’s Game 4 meltdown, but this is the World Series and the pitcher in the other dugout didn’t look like he’s going to give up another run until his first tune up in the 2015 Cactus League.

Of course, Bumgarner likely would have mowed down the pinch hitter anyway, but believe it or not, this was no time for the Royals to give away an out.

Drive for show: There is that golf saying “Drive for show, putt for dough.” It means that if you are to win in golf, the booming blasts off the tee might get everyone’s attention, but the winner is probably going to be the one who makes all the putts. The Giants offense was sort of like that in Game 5. The guys who could drive it for show like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence didn’t drive in any of the Giants five runs. None had a bad game, with each reaching base twice. But on this night the guys who sank the putts batted in the less glamorous seventh and eighth spots in the order.

Eighth-place hitter Brandon Crawford drove in three runs with a groundout in the second and singles in the fourth and eighth. Seventh-place hitter Travis Ishikawa had a key single in the fourth that moved Sandoval into scoring position for Crawford. In the eighth, Sandoval and Pence singled, and after Brandon Belt struck out, Ishikawa replacement Juan Perez came up. With the crowd wildly waving their orange rally flags in hopes the Giants could get at least more run, Perez did them one better.

Highs and lows: A player mainly used for his defense, Perez crushed a pitch off power set-up man Wade Davis that crashed high off the wall in centerfield, scoring Sandoval and Pence for a 4-0 lead. Crawford’s single made it 5-0. But what none in the crowd knew was that Perez learned early in the game about the death of his close friend Oscar Taveras, a St. Louis Cardinals rookie outfielder who had been killed in an auto accident. In the locker room, Perez had to field alternate questions about his heroics and his personal loss, and he showed great class in humbly describing his big hit while softly recounting his friendship with Taveras. While just 22, Taveras is not a stranger to Giants fans. He hit his first major league home run against the Giants’ Yusmeiro Petiit in May, and struck a pinch-hit homer against the Giants in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

The unthinkable: The Big Three in the Royals bullpen were about as powerful as the Great Oz, as the Giants got to Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis in the three-run eighth. It might have taken a combination of brains, heart and courage, but the Giants certainly exposed the prized bullpen’s  frailties for one night. The Royals were supposed to own the seventh, eighth and ninth because of that bullpen, but the Giants made them look like they were just renting.

Now what? Bumgarner won’t be pitching at all in Game 6 (I don’t think), but he will still be a big factor because he gave the Giants bullpen two days of rest Sunday and Monday because of his complete game. That is critical because Jake Peavy appears to be about a five-inning starter at  the most. The rested bullpen should give manager Bruce Bochy no reservations about dipping into the bullpen quickly.

Till we meet again: Sunday night marked the final party of the season at the Giants ballpark, with fans heading for home still not knowing how the season will end despite the joyous finale. This a pattern. The Giants are gunning for their third World Series championship in five years, but they once again can’t clinch at home. Well, at least that gives them something they can work on next season.


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