Sports

WORLD SERIES

Giants win World Series with nail-biting ninth against Royals

By Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (bottom) celebrates with teammates after catching a pop out for the final out of Game 7 of the World Series against the Royals in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (bottom) celebrates with teammates after catching a pop out for the final out of Game 7 of the World Series against the Royals in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

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KANSAS CITY - 

At the end of a disappointing 2013 season, San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean, in his year-end wrapup, was concerned that his team’s World Series window might be closing.

What a window it had been. Two World Series titles in four years is something only one other team — the Boston Red Sox — can claim.

This Giants team had other plans, apparently. They took it to an entirely other level.

And now, virtually out of the blue, they have another title, a gift from the baseball gods and from a special left-handed pitcher named Madison Bumgarner.

As if what he has done as a starter in this World Series wasn’t enough, Bumgarner came out of the bullpen Wednesday night, working on two days of rest after winning Game 5, and tossed an incredible five innings of two-hit relief for his first-ever save. Jeremy Affeldt, who worked 2.1 innings of relief, in advance of Bumgarner, got the win as the Giants beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 to win their third World Series title in the last five years on Wednesday night.

“I’m numb,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who has undoubtedly punched his ticket to Cooperstown with this unexpected third title. “In this game, you feel fortunate to win just one time. To have done it three times, I’m simply amazed. It’s not easy, but we have a group of guys who are true warriors. This team went through a lot this season. It was a tough road but somehow we got it done.”

All told in the World Series, Bumgarner was 2-0 with an ERA of 0.43 and that amazing save.

The clinching win didn’t come without some drama. With two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth, Bumgarner gave up a single to Alex Gordon. The ball got past centre fielder Gregor Blanco and rolled all the way to the wall. When the Giants finally got control of the ball, Gordon was on third. Bumgarner took it in stride and got Sal Perez to pop up to end the inning, the game, the Series and the season.

“It hurts to come as close as we came in a one-run game and as magical as our run has been to end up losing the ballgame by 90 feet is tough,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “The hard part is that you spend all year climbing to the top of the mountain and then boom, you fall back and you’ve got to start all over at the bottom again next year.

“We’ve gained a ton of experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of anything in my life as I am of this team. They know how close they came and they’re going to want to taste it again.”

After being pounded 10-0 by the Royals in Game 6, the Giants rebounded with their typical tenacity in Game 7. They grabbed an early lead, lost it, then got it back and, with Bumgarner dialing up a steady string of zeros, held it for the deciding victory between two wild-card survivors.

In the deciding game, all the scoring was over by the top of the fourth inning. The teams exchanged two-run rallies in the second inning. In the top of the fourth, Michael Morse looped an RBI single into right field off Kelvin Herrera to put the Giants ahead 3-2 and, amazingly, that’s where it stayed.

Back-to-back singles by Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence to start the fourth inning put K.C. starter Jeremy Guthrie on borrowed time. After Brandon Belt flied out to deep left, allowing Sandoval to advance to third,  Yost went to Herrera, normally his seventh-inning specialist, to face Morse. He got ahead 0-2 and then Morse poked an RBI single into short right field, scoring Sandoval with the go-ahead run. Herrera got out of the inning without further damage but the Giants had the lead for good.

San Francisco’s Tim Hudson who, at 39 years and 107 days of age, became the oldest pitcher to start a World Series Game 7, was gone in mere minutes. He lasted only until two were out in the bottom of the second inning. Jeremy Affeldt picked up from there and tossed 2.1 strong innings, allowing only one base hit, building a bridge to Bumgarner.

Armed with a lead, Bumgarner came in to start the top of the fifth. After giving up a leadoff single to Omar Infante, he settled in for the long haul even though, just three days previous, he had pitched a nine-inning, 117-pitch masterpiece in Game 5.

After that Infante single, no Kansas City hitter reached base until Gordon with two outs in the ninth, as Bumgarner set down 14 hitters in a row on 68 pitches.

“Obviously, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Bumgarner. “I just haven’t had enough time to think about it. It’s been an unbelievable year for us. So many ups and downs. We faced a lot of adversity and I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates.”

As amazing as this post-season run was, it was equally amazing that the Giants even made it here.

They set a torrid pace out of the gate in 2014. They went 17-11 in March-April and 20-9 in May. On June 8, they had the best record in baseball at 43-21, 10 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. Then it all fell apart. In their next 67 games, they were the worst team in baseball at 26-41, a winning percentage of .388. In one 23-game stretch during that period, they were 5-18. From June 8 through the rest of the season, the Giants had a 45-53 record, eight games under .500 but that hot start allowed them to snag the second wild-card slot.

Even heading into the playoffs, the Giants didn’t have much going on to give them hope, coming off a mediocre 13-11 record in September.

But they had Bumgarner.

He pitched a complete-game shutout in the 8-0 wild card win over the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Giants were off to the races. They had picked up the October scent that was so familiar to them and kicked it into gear. Over the course of their 12-5 record in the post-season, Bumgarner pitched in seven games and logged a record-setting 52.2 innings.

ken.fidlin@sunmedia.ca


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