Programming note: For the most comprehensive World Series coverage from Kansas City, watch "October Quest" today at 4 p.m., and immediately after Game 2 on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
KANSAS CITY, MO. -- And so, The Team Of Occasional Octobers In This Millennium continues on, relentlessly, remorselessly, Bumgarnerically.
Indeed, until Salvador Perez homered in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Kansas City Royals the “1” in their 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the San Franciscii, Game 1 of the World Series was going to be another one of those Madison Bumgarner stories in which all you had to do was change the team, the score and a couple of names.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Bumgarner controls Game 1, Giants win 7-1]
Such has been the crushing sameness of his starts, and of their opening games in playoff series, that the confluence of those trends makes for fairly jaw-dropping (if admittedly dry) reading.
- In three World Series starts, Bumgarner has allowed one run (Perez’ homer) and eight hits in 22 innings, an ERA of 0.41.
- In 11 postseason starts, he is 6-3 with a 2.49 ERA.
- And in a stat that because it transcends this team it stops making sense after awhile, the Giants ruin opposing aces. In 14 series openers going back to 2000, facing some of the game’s best pitchers (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Johnny Cueto, Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, and last night James Shields), the Giants have punished them over 63 innings (an average of 4 ½ innings per start) for 90 hits, 58 runs, 56 of them earned, an 0-12 record and an 8.00 ERA. The only game they lost in that group, to St. Louis’ Lance Lynn two years ago, Lynn didn’t get out of the fourth inning.
These are laughable numbers, absurd beyond reasoning. They stand alone because there is no sense gilding them. Bumgarner pitches, they win. A series opens, they win. And other than the 2000 NL Division Series against the Mets and the 2002 World Series against the Angels, when they win their opener, they win the series.
Hell of a trend if you can get it.
“I don’t know how to explain it, really,” Bumgarner said with his standard inflection-of-a-metronome weariness. “I felt pretty good, I just thought about getting my pitches over and pushing all that other stuff aside.”
Oh, and there was also the three-run lead he was staked to in the first on Pablo Sandoval’s one-out double and Hunter Pence’s ensuing two-run homer.
“Oh, it definitely helps having a cushion,” he droned. “The guys have picked me up more than I’ve picked them up, and those three runs were huge.”
The problem, of course, is that in highlighting the three-run Giant first, you almost forget that Bumgarner nearly gave it back in the third. After an error by shortstop Brandon Crawford on a seemingly routine grounder by Omar Infante and a double by Mike Moustakas, Bumgarner “bowed his neck,” in the clubhouse parlance, overpowered Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki, then after losing Lorenzo Cain on an eight-pitch walk, forced cleanup hitter Eric Hosmer into a first-pitch roller to second baseman Joe Panik.
Rally killed. Inning over. Game done. It really was that simple.
Of course, the Giants would never be so crass as to tempt fate even in this, their most overpowering postseason since 1954. One does not kick beehives to show one’s friends how tasty honey is.
But they already have the Royals in a tactical bind. Shields’ outing, the second shortest of the 14 next to Johnny Cueto’s eight-pitch start in Cincinnati in 2012, forced Kansas City manager Ned Yost to use long man Danny Duffy for three innings and one of his two left-handed relievers, Tim Collins for an additional two. If Yordano Ventura cannot get any better traction than Shields did in Game 1, the Royals do not have a logical bridge to their own core four bullpen pitchers.
What Kansas City does have, though, is the knowledge that Bumgarner cannot only inflict more pain on them as a potential pinch-hitter before Game 5. The next three Giant starters, Jake Peavy Wednesday, Tim Hudson Friday and Ryan Vogelsong Saturday, are not as dominant as Bumgarner, and their duels with Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie and left-hander Jason Vargas would figure to be closer-fought affairs. History is not always a determinant of the future, and baseball still specializes in excessive cruelties to those who assume what always was always will be.
But so far, Game 1 of this series looked like the last few – Giants making the most of their chances and giving few back in return. Through 11 games this postseason, the Giants have put almost twice as many hitters in place with men in scoring position (103) than they have allowed (59), which means they’ve had nine potential scoring at-bats per game to the opponents’ five. That matters, too, and the Royals over the next few days will have to do something about that, or reap the same whirlwinds in the later games that everyone seems to absorb in the openers.
Yes, history isn’t a precursor to the future, but it still can be a sharp knee to the nethers when The Team Of Occasional Octobers In This Millennium is on its job. It was again Tuesday, and if the story seems the same . . . well, damn it, it was.