AT&T PARK — A tied series means a clean slate. The go-ahead game-winner, statistically speaking, usually winds up with the crown, with 27 of 41 Game 5 winners going on to win the World Series.
After an 11-run offensive burst Saturday night, the Giants prevailed over the Royals with a menacing 5-0 win Sunday night to take a 3-2 series lead back to Kansas City.
The matchup could have seemed a tossup from an outsider’s point of view. With Madison Bumgarner on the mound, though, the Giants held an overwhelming advantage.
Bumgarner is Bochy’s postseason ace. The southpaw has toed the rubber for six of this season’s 15 playoff games and led the team to a win in all but one, behind an alarmingly serene front.
In Game 5, Bumgarner (W, 2-0, 0.56 ERA) made postseason pitching look easy.
And, for him, it’s been as simple as he makes it sound:
“I’ve been feeling pretty good and been able to work both sides of the plate. That is the key, is being able to throw strikes on both sides and getting ahead of guys, moving the ball around, staying out of the hitter’s counts. And, that’s it.”
Bumgarner threw a complete game shutout, just the 16th in World Series history, dishing out eight strikeouts while knocking out cold Kansas City’s hitters with his 76-mph curveball.
Royals manager Ned Yost was impressed with Bumgarner’s command and strikeout ability:
“You know what he does so well and what he’s so impressive doing, he commands his fastball in and out, up and down … and really can command that pitch down and away in the dirt when he wants to get a strike. A lot of guys have trouble commanding that pitch; they’ll hang it. A lot of guys have trouble just hitting that right spot where it just barely bounces where they can get that swing and miss. But boy, he sure had command of that tonight too.”
Salvador Perez‘s solo home run in Game 1, with the Giants up by seven runs, was the only run Bumgarner allowed this series. He’s pitched a total 47-2/3 innings, just 2/3 of an inning fewer than Curt Shilling’s 2001 all-time record for a single postseason.
Asked if Bumgarner was the best World Series pitcher he’s seen, manager Bruce Bochy said:
“Well, for me, yeah. I think in my World Series he is … I haven’t seen a better pitcher over the course of this postseason, it’s been a pretty long one, and to do what he’s done is pretty historic, I think.”
Bochy warmed up closer Santiago Casilla during the eighth inning, but the offensive cushion gave Bum the chance to return for a 10-pitch final inning.
Bumgarner said he felt great in that last inning:
“I felt great all night. Really this time of year it’s not too hard to go out there and feel good.”
The Giants’ bats gave Bumgarner all the run support he needed early: two grind-’em-out runs off James Shields — both sparked by leadoff hits.
Hunter Pence started the second inning with a leadoff single that snuck past short stop Alcides Escobar‘s glove. Brandon Belt followed with a Royals-like bunt single to advance Pence, who rallied home on a fielder’s choice groundout by Brandon Crawford.
In the fourth, Pablo Sandoval lead off with a sharp ground ball single to left field. A two-out Travis Ishikawa single past Escobar’s glove brought Crawford to the plate again, who knocked a shallow bloop single to bring a hesitating Sandoval home. The Giants took the 2-0 lead.
That was all Bumgarner needed, but the Giants rallied again in the eighth inning.
Royals manager Ned Yost brought in his boys, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis, to give his team a late-inning chance at the lead and cut off San Francisco’s scoring. He’d been saving them for this moment.
But the Giants didn’t cower. Instead, they rallied.
The Herrera, Davis, Holland trifecta allowed just three collective earned runs this postseason. Tonight, Herrera and Davis allowed three runs themselves, two of them earned.
Sandoval and Pence knocked Herrera out of the game with consecutive singles. Yost sent Wade Davis in to face lefty Brandon Belt, who struck out, before Juan Perez smashed a towering double within inches of a home run beyond Kansas City’s speedy outfield to deep left-center to bring Sandoval and Pence home.
Perez took third on a throwing error from Jerrod Dyson, then Crawford cracked a single down the third base line to score Perez and give the Giants the 5-0 lead.
Perez’s big eighth inning came after news broke of a car crash in the Domincan Republic that killed Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras. Perez reportedly broke down in the bullpen; he had played Winter ball with Taveras and was close with his brother.
“Man, just breaks your heart. Young kid, 22 years old, a great talent…This kid had a great future ahead of him. he hit a big home run against us, and it’s a loss for his family, the Cardinals, baseball because this kid looked like he was a special talent and was going to have a great career.”
The Giants return to Kansas City tomorrow, and will face the Royals for Game 6 on Tuesday with a chance to take their third World Series title in five seasons.
Madison Bumgarner‘s complete game gave the bullpen a full day of rest, and saved some key arms in relief for Game 6 … Crawford went 2-for-4, knocking in three of the Giants five runs. … Hunter Pence also went 2-for-4, bringing in the other two runs and bolstering a .474 World Series batting average. … The Giants are batting a collective .299 in the 2014 World Series. The Royals: .221.