SAN FRANCISCO – Madison Bumgarner hit for himself in the eighth inning Sunday night, taking his usual county fair sledgehammer hacks, as a sellout crowd began its chant.
No referendum required. This one’s obvious.
The Giants are one victory away from clinching their third World Series title in five years, and whatever method or means they might employ should they get there, Bumgarner is the one who rang the strength bell.
His overwhelming postseason just keeps inching up and up into historic levels of brawn, as he held the Kansas City Royals to four hits in a 5-0 victory in Game 5 of the World Series Sunday night at AT&T Park.
Bumgarner threw the first World Series shutout since Josh Beckett did it for the Marlins at Yankee Stadium in 2003, and the first by a Giant since Jack Sanford tossed a three-hitter to beat the Yankees in Game 3 of the 1962 Fall Classic.
Brandon Crawford hit an RBI single and drove in a run with a ground out as the Giants led 2-0 after four innings. Juan Perez came off the bench to make a difficult grab in left field look easy, then he blistered a two-run double off seemingly impregnable right-hander Wade Davis in the eighth.
That cushion allowed Giants manager Bruce Bochy to let his ace hit for himself in the eighth, and take the ninth with 107 pitches already logged. He went through the heart of Kansas City’s order on 10 pitches, and received his Buster Hug after Eric Hosmer grounded out to end it.
Bumgarner became the first pitcher to win his first four World Series starts since Lew Burdette in 1957-58, and it would be hard to lose based on what he’s done: 31 innings, one run, 12 hits, five walks and 27 strikeouts.
He already leads the Giants all-time in playoff starts (12) and victories (seven). And he gave a sellout crowd a hearty sendoff in the final baseball game of the season at Third and King.
Bumgarner has a 1.18 ERA in six playoff starts this month, and his 47 2/3 innings are the second most in one postseason in major league history. Two more outs as a potential Game 7 reliever and he'd match Curt Schilling in 2001 for the most ever. The Giants would be perfectly fine leaving that one be, though.
Hell. Bumgarner might be the series MVP even if the Royals win the next two.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner used his fastball to overwhelm the Royals in his Game 1 victory. He adjusted before the hitters could in Game 5.
Bumgarner mixed his slider like cocoa in the brownie batter, throwing strikes on 10 of 11 pitches in a dominant first inning. The time to get Bumgarner is at the outset, before he settles in. This time, he stood on bedrock from the moment he left the bullpen mound.
He threw two sliders and then a curve to strike out Eric Hosmer in the first inning. It was four sliders to Mike Moustakas, who became the first of three consecutive victims in the second inning – and the next two, Omar Infante and Jarrod Dyson, went down on three pitches. It was 86 mph slider, 91 mph fastball and 76 mph curve to Infante.
It took just 12 pitches to get through the third inning, with Alex Gordon swinging through a curve in the dirt to end it.
The sequence was even more unfair to Lorenzo Cain to start the fourth. Cain, who singled in his first at-bat (and worked Bumgarner for 14 pitches while walking and getting hit on the foot in two confrontations in Game 1), saw pitches at 86, 75, 65, 92 and 76 mph before grounding out to shortstop.
Yes, Bumgarner threw one of his Highway Patrol-compliant slow curves in that at-bat. It is another seed to plant in a hitter’s fertile mind, and the doubt just grows and grows and grows.
Bumgarner can tighten his slider to be a cutter, or let out some slack. He can bounce his curve in the dirt for a chase pitch, or backdoor it for a freeze effect. He did the latter in the eighth, when Royals manager used his Billy Butler bullet. Terrance Gore undoubtedly was ready to wreak havoc on the bases if Butler had reached. But Bumgarner does not serve country breakfast all day.
The Royals finally advanced a runner into scoring position in the fifth, and that only happened because left fielder Travis Ishikawa’s diving attempt came up short on Infante’s sinking line drive. But again, Yost managed as if Karl Rove was behind him pulling the strings. He stayed conservative and let Dyson and Shields hit. Two strikeouts later, Infante walked off second base and back to his position.
Bumgarner retired the final nine batters he faced. No, he didn’t demand the ball in Game 4. But he wasn’t going to give it up in Game 5.
Santiago Casilla got up. He never got in.
At the plate
The Giants could not wreck James Shields the first time through the lineup and he was able to locate enough changeups to prevent them from having bowstrings taut for fastballs.
But contact always has a chance to be good contact, and the Giants made enough of it to push across runs in the second and fourth innings. In both scoring rallies, the mere threat of Bumgarner’s two regular-season grand slams had a shadow influence.
They started the second inning with Hunter Pence’s ground single, then Brandon Belt attacked an extreme infield shift by bunting to the vacant left side. This was not a page from his book. Belt had never bunted for a hit in his career and he had just one sacrifice bunt, back in 2013.
He caught the Royals by surprise, and both runners tagged up on Travis Ishikawa’s fly out to moderately deep center field. With first base open and one out, the Royals played the middle infielders back and elected to pitch to the No. 8 hitter – perhaps too conservative a strategy in a Bumgarner start. Crawford took what Shields gave him and managed a ground out to second base that scored Pence.
Crawford came through again in the fourth after Pablo Sandoval singled and Ishikawa extended the inning with a two-out hit. In a pitch-around situation, Shields threw a money curve with two strikes but Crawford stuck out his bat and blooped it to center field. Sandoval tapped the brakes as he rounded third base but Tim Flannery sent him as soon as he saw the short hop clank off Jarrod Dyson’s glove.
The Giants had a chance to double their lead in the fifth when Pence punished a pitch to the deepest part of right-center field with two aboard. Lorenzo Cain ran leagues upon leagues and made a breathtaking catch in a place at the warning track where catches just aren’t made. Unless you’re Gregor Blanco protecting Matt Cain’s perfect game, maybe.
The Giants had to figure they’d see the Royals’ frontline relievers no matter the situation, since they didn’t pitch in Game 4. They battered them anyway. Kelvin Herrera gave up singles to Sandoval and Pence, then Wade Davis, who hadn’t allowed a home run all year, faced Perez and gave up a double off the top of the wall. Pence tailgated Sandoval down the third base line and slid ahead of the throw to make it 4-0. Crawford followed with another single to left field to cap the three-run inning.
Bumgarner did not act alone. Sandoval stayed with a dead bounce off the lip of the grass to throw out Hosmer in the fourth inning, then Belt ranged far to his right on Perez’s grounder and sprint-slid to beat the catcher to the base when Bumgarner failed to cover.
Perez, who pinch-ran for Ishikawa in the seventh, had no trouble navigating a smooth route to Cain’s line drive following Hosmer’s leadoff single in the seventh.
The Giants announced 43,087 paid. The Marshall Tucker Band is going to get a nice and somewhat unexpected royalty check for all these “Fire on the Mountain” downloads.
The Giants and Royals meet in Game 6 of the World Series at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday. Jake Peavy (0-1, 7.20 ERA) takes the mound against Royals rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura (0-0. 3.38). First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. PDT.