Programming note: For the most comprehensive World Series coverage from Kansas City, watch "October Quest" tonight at 10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
KANSAS CITY – The Giants held a light workout on Monday at Kauffman Stadium. They know there’s plenty of heavy lifting left to do.
They are one victory away from their third World Series title in five years, but you only need to envision a monkey doing backflips on a jumbo screen to know that the Giants aren’t guaranteed anything. Back in 2002, they went to Anaheim up 3-2 and had their hearts broken.
It’s not as if the long-tenured front office needs to provide that 12-year-old reminder to the current team. These Giants knew from the outset that the Kansas City Royals would give them the fullest fight.
“It’s not going to be easy at all,” said Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, “and I think it matters that we already know that.”
Here’s a more recent and slightly more uplifting analog for you: the 2010 NLCS, when the Giants headed to Phladelphia up 3-2 and needed one victory in two road games to clinch the pennant. Bruce Bochy managed that Game 6 like it was an elimination game, using three of his four playoff starters. And yes, one of them was Madison Bumgarner, who tossed two scoreless relief innings on two days of rest. The Giants won and avoided a Game 7 crapshoot.
This time Bumgarner, who has a 1.13 ERA in six playoff starts this October, would be on one day of rest for Game 6 in Kansas City after throwing 117 pitches during his four-hit shutout in Game 5. Does Bumgarner expect Bochy to manage this Game 6 the same way he managed it in Philadelphia, with all hands on deck and a line in the sand?
“Well, I expect Jake Peavy to throw a shutout,” Bumgarner said. “That’s what I expect. But we’ll be ready for anything.”
Yes, but where does Bumgarner plan to watch this Game 6? The dugout or the bullpen?
“Probably a little of both,” he said. “I mean, I’d like to watch some of it from the bullpen.”
Said Bochy: “He really bounces back well, and we wouldn't ask him to do a lot. But if I needed to get an out or something, I'm sure he'll say he's available.”
The game will dictate those decisions. Prior to the first pitch, though, Bochy has to make one lineup call:
He still plans to use Michael Morse at designated hitter, and although he’ll probably keep the same lineup from Game 2 against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, the manager hadn’t totally ruled out starting Juan Perez in left field over Travis Ishikawa.
Ishikawa brings another left-handed bat, but Perez is swinging a hot stick and he’d offer premium defense in left field from the get-go.
The real bit of intrigue is how long a leash Bochy would give to Peavy, a battle-tested pitcher he trusts with his life and has known since he was a pup with the San Diego Padres. Because Bumgarner went the distance on Sunday, Bochy has Yusmeiro Petit for multiple innings. He also has Ryan Vogelsong, although his role might be limited to an extra-inning situation. Tim Lincecum is always an option, too. And all his situational, short-end relievers will be operating with at least two full days of rest.
In other words, Bochy has a plethora of choices if Peavy wobbles early. Then again, that’s exactly what happened in Game 2, when Peavy struggled to get much action on his cutter and sinker while allowing two runs in the first two innings. Peavy made an adjustment, plowed through efficient outs and still stood on the mound in the sixth having thrown fewer than 70 pitches.
“We wouldn't be here without Jake,” Bochy said. “We lost Matt Cain and we needed some help, and he really stepped up and filled that void. So we don't want Jake to try to do any more than what he normally does, especially since he's been over here with us, because he's thrown the ball very well.”
Peavy was relaxed and charming in his interview session, introducing his boys Wyatt and Judson, who “flew with daddy on the plane today to the World Series.” Peavy joked that Tim Hudson, who would start a potential Game 7, is trying to swap assignments with him.
“To be the guy that gets the ball with this opportunity, it's a special opportunity and I understand that,” said Peavy, who prefaced his comments by sending condolences to the St. Louis Cardinals and the family of Oscar Taveras after the 22-year-old outfielder died in a car accident on Sunday.
“I’ve just got to do all I can do to be in the moment, to think about executing pitches, to find any way, anyhow for the San Francisco Giants to win this game, and I promise you, I'm going to exhaust every option.”
If Peavy exhausts them all, then Bochy can turn to something that Dusty Baker didn’t have 12 years ago in Anaheim: A healthy, rested, and trustworthy bullpen.