Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey Raise Their Arms in Victory
Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle
Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.”
The San Francisco Giants didn’t get many home runs this season, but timely hitting, amazing defense and the pitching of a young man named Madison Bumgarner who did something that no pitcher has done since the dead ball era.
Bumgarner won two games in the this World Series, giving him four career World Series wins, and he earned the save tonight in game seven, pitching five innings of shutout ball. He had a World Series Record 0.43 Earned Run Average over 21 innings pitched in the series. He allowed just one run in his three games, of which he had a win in game one going seven innings, a complete game shutout in game five and coming back on short rest to pitch five innings of scoreless relief in game seven. In an era where pitch counts have ruled, Bumgarner defied the odds. During the regular season he pitched 219 innings. He then pitched 48 and 2/3rds innings in the playoffs, he won two games in the NLCS against the Cardinals and had a complete game shutout of the Pirates in the Wild Card. His only blemish was a loss to the Nationals in game four of the NLDS. It was one of the most amazing post-season performances, not to mention World Series performances in baseball history.
I grew up with the Giants and I love their orange and black American League counterpart Baltimore Orioles as well. I have loved both teams since I was a child. I was hoping for a total orange and black World Series, but the Kansas City Royals put that wish to rest by sweeping the Orioles in the ALCS.
This World Series has been weird for me. I expected the Giants to win but I also expected the normal amount of “torture ball” from the Giants, who over the past five years have found ways to keep their fans on chewing their fingernails, drinking too much beer and resorting to whatever superstition gets them through. For me it is making sure my trusty Papillon-Dachsund mix Molly, is there with me. When she could still see, she went blind in early 2013, she would sit on “her” bean bag and watch the game with me. Since I was traveling during this post season we didn’t have as much Molly-Daddy baseball time, but tonight during game seven she stayed on the couch with me the entire game. Molly is my good luck charm when watching the Giants torture all of us. But I digress…
I watched game one with friends at Gordon Biersch last Tuesday, saw game two at home before flying to Stockton California for my induction into the Edison High School Hall of Fame meaning that I got no sleep the night before the flight. I watched game three with my brother, missed game four due to the induction ceremony, watch game five on my iPad on my flight home, saw most of game six at Biersch and tonight since we were all tired, stayed home to watch game seven.
Tonight was special. I have had a week of tremendous ups and downs and so my stomach was in a knot the whole game. I was sure that the Giants would win, but after the 10-0 defeat in game six I was a bit nervous, even though I actually felt better with the blowout than had they lost a close game. During the pre-game shows it seemed that many of the commentators were almost cheering for the Royals to win and constantly talking about how the last nine game seven’s have been won by the home team. I knew they were full of crap but nonetheless, it was annoying.
When Pablo Sandoval was in the dugout getting ready to step into the on deck circle in the top of the first, he turned to the camera and winked.
At that point, any doubts faded, but that being said I was still nervous. I watched the game but also did a few things to take the edge off at times. I looked at other news stories on the internet, republished an article about Gettysburg, drank beer and snuggled next to Molly on the couch.
I think that the Giants are one of the most amazing “teams” in the game, and under manager Bruce Botchy they accomplish amazing things in the most unlikely of ways with a team of regular guys. A rotund third baseman called “the Panda,” a wild-eyed right fielder named Hunter Pence, a rookie second baseman named Panik, a solid bullpen, and apart from Bumgarner a starting pitching staff that struggled much of the season. It seems like every year the Giants find another unusual way to win, especially when they get to the post-season.
Tonight was no different. Their starting pitcher Tim Hudson, the oldest pitcher to ever start in a World Series game, didn’t get out of the second inning. So Bruce Botchy brought in Jeremy Affeldt, a lefty who normally pitches in late inning relief. Affeldt had never come into a major league game in the second inning during his career. The crafty left-hander shut down the Royals for 2.1 innings earning the win while Bumgarner, after initially being credited with the win, earned the save. Affeldt and Bumgarner proved Earl Weaver’s wise saying that “The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Affeldt and Bumgarner dominated the Royals from that hill.
Joe Panik tossing the ball to Brandon Crawford with his glove to begin the 5th inning double play (AP Photo)
They were backed up by just enough timely hitting and outstanding defense, especially after Bumgarner came into the game and Second Baseman Joe Panik made one of the most amazing double plays I have ever seen. Panik dove and robbed Eric Hosmer of a hit, tossing the ball with his glove to shortstop Brandon Crawford who threw out Hosmer who was diving head first into first base. Initially Hosmer was ruled safe, but the very first manager’s challenge replay reversal of an on field call in the World Series ended a potential threat.
As the game went on into the seventh inning I began to count down the outs with Molly at my side. When Alex Gordon singled and reached third base after a fielding error by Giant’s Center Fielder Gregor Blanco with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, yet another element of torture ball. I was standing, and when Salvador Perez popped up to Pablo Sandoval in foul territory to end the game I was jumping up and down and screaming for joy, thanking Molly for staying on the couch and not moving, ensuring that nothing that she or I did would jinx the Giants. Yes this is superstitious, maybe even idiotic, but it is the way I deal with the World Series when the Giants are playing in it.
Congratulations to the Giants, and kudos to the Royals who surprised everyone with their playoff run this year. I expect them to be a force to be reckoned with in the American League for years to come, provided of course that free agency does not rob them of their tremendous late inning bullpen staff.
With that I need to attempt to get to sleep, if I can. For once though if I don’t sleep it won’t be because of anything bad, just the post-game excitement that won’t let me sleep.