KANSAS CITY – The Giants cared enough to send their very best.
What other way to describe Madison Bumgarner in the World Series?
With their left-handed ace mixing a crackling fastball, a snapping cutter, a sweeping curve and even a surprising, 68-mph yakker, the Giants dealt the Kansas City Royals their first loss of the postseason and took a 7-1 victory in Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Tuesday.
The world’s largest greeting card company is headquartered here. With Hunter Pence’s home run in a three-run first inning, and Bumgarner pitching himself deeper into World Series lore, the Giants sent the Royals something between condolences and regrets. The home team and powder-blue crowd, which waited nearly three decades for the World Series to return to Kauffman Stadium, can only hope to get well soon in Game 2.
The Royals had gone 8-0 in this postseason. But they're playing a team that has dispatched all nine playoff opponents they've faced in the Bruce Bochy era.
Starting pitching report
Back on that Halloween Night in 2010, when Madison Bumgarner was barely 21 and shut out the Texas Rangers in Arlington, he said he couldn’t be sure if he’d ever reach the World Series again in his career.
Well, he has. Twice more. And he has been nothing short of historically good.
It took the 104th pitch of his third World Series start, going 21 2/3 innings deep, before Bumgarner allowed a run in the Fall Classic. Salvador Perez dropped a fence-scraping home run into the Royals bullpen in the seventh inning.
The homer snapped the second longest World Series scoreless streak by a pitcher to begin his career in major league history. (Christy Mathewson tossed 28 zeroes in a row back when you needed a dirigible to get your feet off the ground.) The homer also ended Bumgarner’s streak at 32 2/3 scoreless postseason innings on the road, a major league record.
Until then, Bumgarner threw the same cold water on the Royals that he did to disarm the powerful Rangers in 2010 and Tigers in 2012. He worked eye levels with his fastball the first time through, offered them a completely different look the next time around, and when it was time to clock out, he’d held them to three hits in seven innings with a walk and five strikeouts.
Bumgarner has allowed just the lone run and eight hits in 22 innings over his World Series career, with five walks and 19 strikeouts.
The Royals’ only real shot to scratch him, aside from a bit of hard contact in the first inning, came in the third when shortstop Brandon Crawford fumbled a grounder from Omar Infante after Bumgarner nearly knocked the bat out of his hands. Bumgarner wasn’t afraid to throw a 3-1 slider to Mike Moustakas, who waved through it. But when he came back with an inside fastball, the Royals’ hot No. 9 hitter roped it into the right field corner for a double.
The Giants had a 3-0 lead at the time, but the Royals had no outs and two runners in scoring position. It was a potential turning point. Instead, Bumgarner engineered a reverse takedown. He went to an 0-2 count on each of the next three batters, first going neck-high to blow away Alcides Escobar with a 92 mph fastball. Then after Norichika Aoki was late on two fastballs, Bumgarner came back with a curve and the little No. 2 hitter couldn’t check his swing.
Bumgarner lost Lorenzo Cain to a six-pitch walk after getting ahead 0-2, but he followed with a first-pitch slider and cleanup man Eric Hosmer rolled it over to second base to strand the bases loaded.
It was the Royals’ last breath. Bumgarner retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced, with Perez’s homer in the seventh the lone exception.
The Royals were 0 for 8 with five strikeouts and a walk the second time through the order against Bumgarner, and much of that had to do with a slow curve that he began to bust out in June. He threw one at 67 mph to Perez in the fourth, then used another to strike out Moustakas in the fifth.
By the end of the night, it was clear which team had a true Game 1 ace.
Javier Lopez pitched around a hit in the eighth and Hunter Strickland handled the ninth, even getting Hosmer, a left-handed batter, to ground out to second base. Lefty hitters had been 4 for 7 with four home runs off Strickland this postseason.
At the plate
Back on Aug. 9, James Shields held the Giants to four hits while tossing a shutout here. This time, he allowed five hits before escaping the first inning -- and that’s after the Giants gifted him an out on the bases.
With a 7.14 ERA this postseason, perhaps “Big Game James” should remain the property and parlance of James Worthy.
The Giants struck hard and fast while scoring three runs, as five of the first six batters collected hits against Shields. Pablo Sandoval was a Game 1 factor once again, roping an 0-1 curveball down the right field line for an RBI double. Third base coach Tim Flannery, perhaps hoping to set a series tone after so much talk about the Royals’ aggressiveness on the bases, waved Buster Posey home from first base. But Posey is no Terrance Gore, and a strong relay arrived in plenty of time to throw him out.
The Giants would’ve been left with a bitterly minimized inning if not for Pence, who was 0 for 11 with three strikeouts against Shields before generating backspin on a fastball over the heart of the plate. It was the seventh pitch of the at-bat and the fifth consecutive fastball, and by then, Pence had him timed. His two-run homer to right-center field soared over Lorenzo Cain’s head and gave the Giants a 3-0 lead.
It was just Pence’s second home run since Sept. 1 – a span of 99 regular-season plate appearances plus 44 in the postseason. And it landed just underneath a sign that read, “Hunter Pence thinks he’s in Kansas.”
Shields wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The clue might have been the house dropped on his head. He ended up throwing 32 pitches in the first inning, and although he retired six consecutive batters in the second and third, the Giants clashed cymbals on almost every ball in play. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when he didn’t retire any of the three batters he faced in the fourth.
Pence started the rally with a double down the third base line – the first time since Aug. 31 he had two extra-base hits in a game – before Brandon Belt walked and Michael Morse punched an RBI single. That was it for Shields, continuing a long tradition of Game 1 starters to trudge off the mound when facing the Giants.
In the last three World Series, the Giants have ripped Game 1 starters Shields, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander and the Rangers’ Cliff Lee for 17 runs (16 earned) on 21 hits in 11 2/3 innings.
Going back further, as comrade Ray Ratto did so you won’t have to, the Giants have faced 14 starters in Game 1's of playoff series this millennium – a group that includes luminaries such as Tom Glavine, Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright – and they are 0-12 with an 8.00 ERA.
Left-hander Danny Duffy replaced Shields and Bruce Bochy made a bold stroke, sending up Juan Perez to pinch hit for Travis Ishikawa and put pressure on the Royals with a sacrifice bunt. Yes, the Giants were the first team to bunt in this World Series. Millions had to be lost on the prop betting circuit as a result. And yes, Bochy lifted a player in the fourth inning, Ishikawa, who had hit a walk-off home run to clinch the pennant just five days earlier.
Perez couldn’t beat out the bunt but he advanced the runners, and the Giants got another run to make it 5-0 when Duffy walked Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco in succession. Duffy might have gotten squeezed on one pitch to Blanco, and showed frustration on the mound. He quickly found his bearings, though, while striking out Joe Panik – just the second strikeout of the postseason for the rookie second baseman – and getting Posey to pop up.
Duffy might have made a case to start a potential Game 5 ahead of Shields when he retired the side in the fifth and sixth. He didn’t make it through the seventh as the Giants added a pair of runs to make it 7-0, but poor outfield defense – yes, that is more than a theoretical construct for the Royals – complicated matters.
Blanco drew a leadoff walk to reach base for the third time on the night, then Panik did well to yank an 0-2 curveball into right field. Norichika Aoki slipped as he tried to cut it off, misplaying the ball into a triple. Then Sandoval brought Panik home with a single off lefty Tim Collins.
Despite Crawford’s error, the Giants shined in the field and defense twice made an impact in the first inning. Bumgarner helped himself in more ways than one, preserving his face when he snared Aoki’s line drive. Then Blanco got a tremendous jump to flag down Hosmer’s deep drive near the warning track in right-center field to end the first inning and help Bumgarner settle down.
The Royals announced 40,459 paid. They did not party like it was 1985.
The Giants and Royals meet in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium. Jake Peavy (1-0, 1.86 ERA) takes the mound against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura (0-0, 4.85). First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. PDT.