With no road team victorious in a Game 7 of the World Series in more than three decades, history wasn’t on the San Francisco Giants side.
But, fortunate for them, they possess lefty ace Madison Bumgarner. Coming on in relief in the fifth inning, the 25-year-old pitched five scoreless innings and powered the Giants to a riveting 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals Thursday night Kauffman Stadium.
The Giants claimed their third World Series title in five years, the first team to complete such a feat since the New York Yankees of the late 1990s. Bumgarner retired 15 straight batters and set a new record with 52 2/3 total innings pitched in the postseason. He notched his third win of the series and was named MVP, the first time for a pitcher since 2008.
"I'm a little tired now, I can't lie to you anymore," Bumgarner said after the game. "I couldn't be more grateful."
One out away from elimination in the bottom of the ninth the Royals were within striking distance after left fielder Alex Gordon knocked a single into left center that got by San Francisco’s Gregor Blanco and was bobbled by Juan Perez at the warning track. Gordon got to third, but Bumgarner forced catcher Salvador Perez to pop out to Pablo Sandoval in foul territory for the win.
Looking to preserve a very slim lead against an inspired Royals lineup, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy sent out Bumgarner in the fifth and he was nearly flawless, surrendering two hits with 50 of his 68 pitches good for strikes and striking out four batters.
Accounting for all three of the Giants runs, third baseman Sandoval and right fielder Hunter Pence tore up the Royals staff. Sandoval went 3-for-3 with a double, scoring two runs, and Pence racked up another two hits going 2-for-4.
"All the drama we had, playing seven games in a World Series," Sandoval said. "I just told [teammates] to play this game like its the last game -- 300 percent for the teammates and 300 percent for all the fans."
Giants designated hitter Michael Morse went 1-for-3, and his sacrifice fly in the second inning scored Sandoval and gave the Giants their first run of the night. His single to right in the fourth gave them back the lead after the Royals tied it with two runs in the second.
In a rematch of Game 3 starters, neither lasted beyond the fourth inning. Becoming the oldest pitcher ever to start a Game 7 in a World Series, 39-year-old Tim Hudson couldn’t make it past the second inning after allowing the Royals to tie the game at 2-2. Jeremy Affeldt entered in relief and silenced Kansas City until Bumgarner made his third appearance of the series.
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie managed to record just 10 outs and was credited with the loss. Kelvin Herrera would enter in the fourth and allow a single to Morse that allowed Sandoval and put the Giants up for good. It also allowed Bumgarner his opportunity to put the series away.
At the top of second, the Giants broke through with two sacrifice flies from Morse and Brandon Crawford. But Kansas City quickly responded in their next trip to the plate, with Gordon bringing Butler home with a double. After Butler scored, Perez stepped to the plate and was hit in the knee by an errant pitch. It was scary moment for a Royals lineup that the catcher has largely powered throughout the series, and he was hobbled for much of the game.
Later in the second, Omar Infante hit another sac fly to center field with one out, scoring Gordon who slid home to knot the game 2-2 thanks to Hudson bobbling the relay at the mound. Hudson was then pulled after retiring just five batters, and Affeldt came on in relief and got the last out of the second with two pitches.
A chance for controversy was quickly erased in the bottom third. Eric Hosmer railed a hit up the middle, but Giants second baseman Joe Panik dove for the would-be single and flipped it to shortstop Crawford to get Lorenzo Cain out at second. Crawford then gunned it to first, where umpire Eric Cooper called Hosmer safe. During a roughly 10 minute review, the officiating crew overturned the call on the field and the Giants got out of the inning after Butler’s groundout.
The Royals staff couldn’t get Sandoval or Pence out at the plate, but paired them for a double-play in the top of the sixth to keep the Giants lead at one. Herrera let up a single to Brandon Belt, but struck Morse out to get out of the looming jam.
It was a particularly painful loss for Kansas City, a team that had failed to reach the postseason in 29 years, but quickly emerged as an underdog story in 2014. It was only the third World Series appearance for the team since their inaugural season in 1969.
The Giants, who won five title in New York before moving in 1958, have won three titles in San Francisco.