By Tom Pinto
Game 7 of the 2014 World Series will be talked about for decades, if not centuries, thanks to Madison Bumgarner’s stellar performance in three of the seven games. While the last game was a memorable one, how do the other six games of this series stack up and how would they be remembered if Game 7 never happened?
We’re going to be talking about Madison Bumgarner for the rest of our lives, so let’s talk about something else to start. From an excitement standpoint, the 2014 World Series was not anything to write home about it.
Games 1 and 2 were split with scores of 7-1 and 7-2. Game 3 was a tight one, with the upstart Royals winning 3-2. A blowout win for the Giants in Game 4, a shutout for Madison Bumgarner in Game 5, and a blowout win for Kansas City, and then there was Game 7.
If you look back to the last three World Series prior to this year to go to a Game 7, it’s a no brainer those three had more drama. First in 2001 when the Yankees tied up Games 4 and 5 with two out, two run homers to then eventually win both in extra innings. That was all outdone when Arizona came back in the ninth inning of Game 7 off of the best post season reliever of all time. (no it’s not Bumgarner).
The next year saw the Giants and Angels play four one-run games in the first six of the series. Game 6 is always remembered for Dusty Baker taking out starter Russ Ortiz with a 5-0 lead only to see it evaporate as the Angels went on to win Games 6 and 7.
Then just three years ago the Cardinals came back from two runs down in the 9 and 10 innings of Game 6 to beat the Texas Rangers before winning it all the next night. That series also had only one lopsided game.
And then 2014 had a World Series that had great storylines with two teams that could not have been more opposite heading into it, at least in terms of experience. The Royals had two players on their roster that had played in a World Series combining for 1 win (James Shields’ Rays won a game in the 2008 and Omar Infante was a member of the Tigers in 2012).
The Royals were a different team who belonged playing in the 80’s on Astroturf. For the entire season they ran and ran, didn’t hit homeruns, got good enough starting pitching, played amazing defense and had a bullpen with missile-throwers acting as relievers. Probably my favorite line during one of the broadcasts came when I heard something along the lines of you are more likely to see a Royals stolen base than a home run at Kaufmann Stadium.
They had won their first 8 games of the playoffs and were ready for more. In the other corner stood the battle tested, clutch hitting, we win every other year San Francisco Giants. They played the majority of the postseason without their two highest paid players. Matt Cain was out for the season and we had a Tim Lincecum sighting every once in a while.
The Giants also had their quirks about them. They didn’t win 90 games. They played mediocre baseball for the greater parts of June through August. Their pitching staff was good (at best) after Bumgarner. Angel Pagan and Marco Sucatro were hurt. And yet, an even year means here they are again.
Bumgarner dominated Game 1, and the Royals bullpen did the same in Game 2. Game 3 was close, but the Royals, behind their unflappable bullpen, won it by one run. The Giants trailed Game 4 by three runs at one point before a furious rally that saw them score 10 runs in a row.
Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval seemed to get on base every time. That is the Hunter Pence that you just laugh at when you watch and wonder how does this guy play baseball? He laughed his way to a .480 batting average in the World Series and didn’t even have a shot to win the MVP.
More of the same old Bumgarner in Game 5 with a 4-hit shutout. Before Game 6, Royals manager Ned Yost spoke with such confidence that his team would get this series to a Game 7. He could not have been more right when his team won 10-0. He started Yordano Ventura who pitching with a heavy heart after the tragic loss of his childhood friend, Oscar Taveras.
And there we have it, what all of us neutral fans wanted, a Game 7. A not great series that was now going to Game 7, which you just assume is going to be a good game. It’s a dumb way to think, but you can’t help it.
The big question going in not so much if, but when would Madison Bumgarner get in the game. Barring a blowout you knew Giants Manager Bruce Bochy was going to put him in. Tim Hudson and Jeremey Guthrie didn’t last long as the Giants were able to scratch and claw and their way to a 3-2 lead after four innings.
The bottom of the fifth inning came and here comes the man who is unflappable on the mound. Bochy is going to him in the fifth inning for probably just a couple innings. I wonder sometimes if Madison Bumgarner ever shows emotion, or maybe that is just the state demeanor of people from North Carolina.
So we watch the rest of it unfold and if not for a near disaster by the Giants outfield with two outs in the ninth, I might be writing a different story right now.
I watched the tape over and over and I don’t think you can send Alex Gordon. If he didn’t stumble out of the box, he might have scored. I don’t think that can ever be second-guessed.
So Bumgarner had to get one more out. He went high and hard to Salvador Perez initiating a pop-up to the Panda who squeezed the last out of the 2014 season in foul territory. Bumgarner had done it again and the Giants are now what people are calling a “mini dynasty.” An exciting end to a World Series that really wasn’t all that exciting.
I started to think about Game 2 of the NLDS when the Giants were down 1-0 with two outs in the ninth and nobody on. Three straight hits followed, and the game was tied, which the Giants then won in 18. Who knows if they even make it past the first round if Washington wins that Game?
But then again the Giants embody better than anyone what it is to be a team. Every year has its heroes. Cody Ross and Edgar Renteria in 2010. Marco Scutaro in 2012, and this year Bumgarner, Sandoval and Pence were at their best in the most crucial spots.
Michael Morse had two RBIs in Game 7 and got credit for the game-winning RBI in the fourth inning. Travis Ishikawa thought about retiring this season. He ends up sending the Giants to the World Series with a three-run walk-off homer to put the Cardinals to bed.
Then Hunter Pence, with his cult following and unorthodox ways, was the best Giants’ position player in the series. He may swing funny, but nobody was a harder out than Pence.
I read today that the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites to win it all next year. I’m sure the Giants fans won’t mind hearing that when San Francisco fan pour into the streets for the third time in five years. And yet ends another season concluded with an exciting first two rounds of postseason baseball, and a last act that ended more familiar than thrilling.