The Kansas City Royals’ starting pitcher in Game 1 of the 2014 World Series has been nicknamed for his performance in big games, but it’s the San Francisco Giants’ starter that has been most impressive this postseason. Madison Bumgarner takes the ball in the opener, as the Giants look to win their third championship in five years.

Bumgarner was the ace of the San Francisco staff in the regular season, going 18-10 and posting a 2.98 ERA. While he was among the best National League starters through 162 games, the left-hander has taken his game to a whole new level in the postseason.  

In four playoff starts, Bumgarner has been as good as any pitcher in MLB. He’s gone at least seven innings in each outing, allowing just 24 baserunners in 31.2 innings. The 25-year-old hasn’t given up more than three runs in a start, tossing two shutouts, including a complete-game shutout in the wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

James Shields hasn’t come close to matching Bumgarner in 2014, and his nickname has become somewhat ironic. Since being given the moniker “Big Game James” for helping lead the Tampa Bay Rays to their only World Series appearance, Shields has consistently been one of the league’s worst playoff pitchers.

Discounting his 2008 postseason run, Shields has a career playoff ERA of 7.46. In three starts during the 2014 playoffs, Shields has failed to go more than six innings, posting just one quality start. His 5.63 ERA and 1.63 WHIP are a far cry from the 3.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP he posted in the regular season.

Even though Shields has been subpar in the playoffs, the Royals haven’t needed him to be very good. Kansas City’s postseason magic has helped them win all three games that the right-hander has started.

It hasn’t mattered who the Royals have sent to the mound in October, as they’ve gone 8-0 since they played the Oakland Athletics in the sudden-death, wild-card round. Kansas City is a slight favorite to win the series. 

Kansas City was an average hitting team in the regular season, and they haven’t hit the cover off the ball in the playoffs, but they’ve won with an incredible amount of clutch hitting. In five of the Royals’ eight wins, Kansas City has won by scoring in the final inning.

Alex Gordon has had his struggles in the playoffs, but there was no more reliable hitter for the Royals in clutch situations during the regular season. Gordon hit .338 with runners in scoring position. Eric Hosmer, who’s the team’s top postseason hitter, had a .291 batting average in such situations.

Travis Ishikawa has been the Giants’ top run producer in the postseason, and his three-run h0mer in Game 5 of the NLCS sent San Francisco to the World Series. He hit .313 with runners in scoring position during the regular season, while Hunter Pence and Buster Posey hit .351 and .346, respectively, with men on second or third base.

Start Time: 8:07 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Live Online Stream Info: MLB.TV

Betting Odds: Giants-105, Royals-105

Prediction: San Francisco 5, Kansas City 3