Programming note: For complete World Series Victory Parade coverage on Friday, tune in to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area at 11:30 a.m.
Madison Bumgarner knew early in the day that this was going to be his seventh appearance of the postseason, and he went to seek guidance from the man who is about to become a very lucrative trivia answer.
“He came up to me before the game and said, ‘What do you think?’ San Francisco reliever Jeremy Affeldt said while Travis Ishikawa was emptying a beer bottle over all the quadrants of his head. “I said, ‘I think they’ll go to you early, and you’ll probably be the bridge to the back end of the bullpen.’ Boch had already told me to get my knee brace on and stretch out good, so I figured I’d have to be prepared to go early, so that made sense.’”
So much so, as it turns out, that Affeldt was needed in the second inning of Game 7 of the World Series because it was HE that needed to be the bridge, not Bumgarner. Bumgarner was the landing area, the roads from the beach and the parade grounds where everyone else would frolic.
And so it was that the Giants completed their third World Series in five years, with a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 7. Bumgarner completed the most dominant single set of performances since Sandy Koufax owned the 1965 World Series, smothering the Royals as he had done twice before, only this time with five innings of almost flawless relief. He had taken an almost cartoony postseason and turned it into a full-length feature of brilliance, and there is no chance that this will not be remembered forevermore as the Bumgarner Series.
[RECAP: Giants defeat Royal in Game 7]
All the questions about dynasties, about extended playoffs, about incomplete teams getting hot at the right time -- all faded into insignificance because Bumgarner ... well, Bumgarnered. It is an evocative enough word to be a verb as well as a noun, and all you had to do to know this was watch, as catcher Buster Posey did.
“When he came in (to replace Affeldt and start the fifth inning), it wasn’t like we relaxed or anything,” Posey said. “I mean, I thought if we got the seventh with him and the lead we’d be okay, but he just kept going through them so easily.
“He had a little trouble in the first, because he wasn’t really loose,” Posey added, referencing Omar Infante’s leadoff single to right. “But once he went out for the second (well, sixth), there was no difference between how he looked in Game 5 (when he won 5-0 with a four-hit complete game) and now. After the seventh, I figured he’d just finish it.”
And if manager Bruce Bochy had thought at any point that Bumgarner had had enough?
“Then you’d have seen two pitchers standing on the mound,” Affeldt said with a smile that reeked of “and you’d have only seen two pitchers for a second or two.”
It was that easy, that clinical. Fourteen straight retirees before center fielder Gregor Blanco double-clutched on a bloop single by Alex Gordon with two out in the ninth and let the ball skip by him on the slick grass. Gordon raced to third and was held up by third base coach Mike Jirschele, which meant that Bumgarner had to craft a new plan for catcher and final out Salvador Perez.
[RELATED: Bumgarner named World Series MVP]
“I wasn’t sure what happened, I didn’t see it,” Bumgarner said. “But I was starting to get a little nervous. He can run a little bit and that’s a big outfield, so I was just wanting someone to get it and get it in.”
“I was waiting for something at the plate,” Posey said, “but when the ball got in and I saw where (Gordon) was, I knew we were okay, and we could concentrate on Perez.”
Which they did, with six consecutive fastballs, the first five at 92 and the last at 93, each a little higher in the zone, until Perez undercut a reach and popped up to Pablo Sandoval to finish the dream that made impossible dreams seem merely difficult.
“I knew he wanted to do something big,” Bumgarner said. “I had a really good chance, too, so we tried to use that aggressiveness and throw our pitches up in the zone. It’s a little bit higher than high.”
And so, now, is San Francisco. A spectacular final game had erased the drab lopsided beatings of the preliminaries, and a new national face had replaced the others in this -- the Giants’ decade. I mean, if you want to argue about dynasties, go ahead and waste your time, but nobody has done more in this half of the ‘Teens than they have, and that is indisputable.
And while there will be plenty of time to rehash a long, bizarre, arduous season that unveiled new faces for the old places, the next few days belong without debate or discussion to Madison Kyle Bumgarner -- a throwback to a time gone by and a window to the future, all in one 77-inch hulk. He owned an entire 17-game stretch of October. He threw more than a third of his team’s innings, and capped it all off with the first five-inning save in 20 years. A save he could have extended out to six, seven, maybe even eight innings. Nothing is ridiculous right now for him.
“You know what?” he said with that knowing smile. “I can’t lie to you anymore. I’m a little tired now.”
Hell to the yes, he is. So he’ll wave with his right hand at the parade. So he’ll skip a few chores back home. So he’ll ease into spring training. The extraordinary comes with a price, and he cheerfully paid full retail for a moment this sport hasn’t seen since Catfish Hunter, Mickey Lolich, Koufax and Bob Gibson. He thought he might be a bridge from Jeremy Affeldt to Santiago Casilla Wednesday night. Instead, he is a bridge between eras, and a monument in a town that knows how to surround its ballpark with them.