Congratulation to the San Francisco Giants for their 3rd Championship in the last 5 years! Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for a valiant effort. Game 7 of the 2014 World Series was similar to Game 3, which also began with starting pitchers Tim Hudson of the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie of the Royals. The games were close and ended with a 3-2 score, except the Giants won this time.
They can thank Madison Bumgarner for this championship. His performance throughout the playoffs ranks up there with Orel Hershiser in 1988 or Sandy Koufax in 1965. First he won the Wild Card Game to begin the Giants postseason run; he picks up a National League MVP award; then seals the whole deal with 5 innings of shutout relief on two days of rest to earn the World Series MVP Award. By the way, Chevrolet needs someone with more media savvy to present that award. Anyway, Bumgarner’s performance trumped the efforts of the Royals relievers, Herrera, Davis and Holland.
The key play of the game came in the third inning when Giants second baseman Joe Panik made a diving stop of a ball hit by Eric Hosmer and using his glove, tossed the ball to Brandon Crawford to begin a double play. Instead of two men on and nobody out, the Royals had no one on base.
You could second-guess whether the Royals should have given away an out when Bumgarner first entered the game in the 5th inning. Alcides Escobar bunted on a 2-0 pitch to move Omar Infante to second, and a weak hitting Nori Aoki batted next. But considering that the Royals hit into double plays the previous two innings, you could empathize with manager Ned Yost’s thinking. Also, there was a question as to whether Alex Gordon should have gambled and tried to score on the error with 2 outs in the 9th inning, But it’s hard to defy years of training that tells you not to go, if a normal throw could easily get you out, in the hope that a bad throw will happen.
Most managerial second guessing has to do with deciding which relief pitcher to use. In the case of the Royals, it was hard for Yost to make a bad choice. His relievers did their jobs.
As for the Giants, they followed their blueprint for success. They are very efficient on offense, as they showed when they drove in their first two runs on sacrifice flys. They may not get many opportunities to score, but they find some way to capitalize when they do. Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence are as pesky a pair of hitters as you can find. Even if you throw a ball outside the strike zone, they might hit it. They are also fundamentally solid on defense. You see Pence running down balls and Sandoval picking anything hit his way. Of course Panik’s diving play in the 3rd was a potential game saver. Finally, they have a good bullpen, Although, Bumgarner usually isn’t a part of that.
Which brings up another point. The Giants have had tremendous success winning 9 straight playoff series. But the playoffs really are played differently than the regular season. Obviously, Bumgarner would never come in to save a game in the regular season. Also, Tim Hudson would not have been relieved in the second inning. He’d have to stay in longer and risk giving up a few more runs. In fact, watching the Giants starting pitching outside of Bumgarner, you begin to understand why they were a wild card team.
Are they a dynasty? Does it matter? Shortcomings during the regular season point out that they aren’t a dominant team. But when they make it into the playoffs, they know how to win. I guess we’ll see them again in 2016.