Sunday, October 26, 2014

Giants Behind Bumgarner Win 5-0 to Take Series Lead

In a dominant complete game performance, Madison Bumgarner pitched a 4-hit shutout, and the San Francisco Giants got to the Royals late relievers to add to their lead.  The 5-0 victory in the last game of the season at their home park, sends the Giants off to Kansas City needing to win one of the next two games to win the World Series.

He pitched the first World Series shutout since 2003.  Bumgarner set all kinds of other marks, as summarized here.  He threw eight strikeouts, many swinging, and many with the batters looking silly.  He walked no one.  It was an historic performance, and if the Giants win the Series, he's likely to be named the MVP.

But going forward it was the Giants' hitting that was most encouraging.  First their ability to scratch out runs from timely hits but also productive outs, bunting and base-running, and taking advantage of mistakes.  Second, they got to two of the Royals' previously untouchable late inning relievers.  So they've touched up starters, middle relievers and now the finishers.  They've seen everybody the Royals have.

Also important for the Giants: Sandoval and Pence continued hot hitting.  Brandon Crawford produced in the clutch (3 RBIs this game.)  Blanco was the only Giant besides Bumgarner not to get a hit in this game, and Blanco has gotten some key hits in the Series.

The Series is not won, of course.  The Giants now face the two starting pitcher that beat them in the second and third games.  From the Giants perspective, they need just one of the next two.  From the Royals' perspective they've accomplished what they needed to: won one of two at home, and one of three away.  Both teams have now won two games in a row, so the Royals winning two at home is hardly a stretch.  But the Giants are playing their best baseball right now, and the Royals aren't.

For the last pre-game of the year at the home park, I'd expected some acknowledgement of the players who helped the Giants get here but aren't on the roster, namely Matt Cain and Angel Pagan.  Maybe that's happened and hasn't been reported.  What is documented is the pre-game ceremony honoring the late Robin Williams, who was among other things a San Francisco Giants fan.  His son threw out the first pitch, caught by Billy Crystal.

630 p. pacific: Through four innings, it's Giants 2 Royals 0.  Bumgarner is very sharp but Shields is almost as sharp.  It's his infield that's let him down, and the Giants have cashed in a couple of opportunities.  Singles, a smart bunt by Belt, contact to move the runners, and the Giants manufactured two runs.

6:51: Bumgarner bears down with a man on second to get out of the inning without damage in the top of the fifth.  In the bottom half, the Giants get two on, Pence hits a titanic drive but excellent outfield play rescues Shields, who may have pitched his last inning.  It remains 2-0.

7:12: Bumgarner cruises through the sixth, Shields does pitch, gives up a single but the Giants strand the runner on second.  However their hits and at-bats have stretched Shields pitch count past 90.  Hererra, one of their big three late innings relievers, was warming up so he's likely to pitch the seventh.  After 6, the score is still 2-0.    Bumgarner starts the seventh with 7 strikeouts and no walks.

7:24: The Royals get a hit but Bumgarner pitches out of it in the top of the seventh.  It seems likely that barring a jam he'll finish the game, regardless of how that affects the possibility of relief in the seventh game.  Yost uses his late relief trio for one inning each, and with a travel day tomorrow, the risk of using them all in this game in terms of the next two games are pretty minimal.

7:38: The Giants strand a runner but they forced Hererra to throw a lot of pitches in the bottom of the 7th.  His pitch count is way up from the regular season.  He doesn't look unhittable anymore. Yost made some other roster moves that will play out in the 8th.  After seven, Giants 2 Royals 0.

7:49: Bumgarner pitches a strong 8th and though just over a hundred pitches, is likely to start the 9th.  Sandoval begins the bottom of the 8th by hitting the unhittable Hererra.  Then so does Pence. Hererra is gone.

8:04: Dominant Davis comes in.  Belt takes him to 3-2 before taking strike three.  Then light hitting Juan Perez also takes him 3-2, then launches one into center for a triple.  Two runs score.  Crawford comes up and singles Perez in for his third RBI on the game.  It's 5-0.  Cassia was warming up but now Bumgarner is batting, and he'll pitch the ninth.  After 8 innings it's Giants 5 Royals 0.

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