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San Francisco Giants complete epic journey: capture 2014 World Series

By Mark ONeill
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If what they say is true, and that all good things must end some day, then how do you explain the San Francisco Giants’ improbable 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals, Wednesday night, a win that was almost guaranteed to not occur, because the Royals were destined to win the 2014 World Series? Begin with Madison Bumgarner, add a deeply ingrained sense of team chemistry, blend with a sage manager, and what results is one of the most improbable victories in San Francisco Giants history.

Improbable refers to the number of times that a visiting team captured a Game Seven of a World Series; improbable refers to the number of times that a team that won Game Six, also won Game Seven. Finally, improbable refers to a team that begins and ends with pitching-clutch, gut-wrenching-pitching.   

Madison Bumgarner set multiple records in the Series, beginning with his overall ERA for World Series competition, 0.25. Add to that his twenty-one innings pitched in the current World Series, and his thirty-six innings overall in World Series competition, with one earned run allowed. He has established unparalleled credentials in the postseason, that will lead him to the Hall of Fame, should he continue in this vein.

In Game Seven, Wednesday night, on two days of rest, he came on in the fifth, and closed out the game, pitching five full, allowing no runs, on two hits, with no walks and four strikeouts. It was a dominating performance in the biggest game of the World Series, and it will go down in MLB history as one of the grittiest.

Even with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Gregor Blanco misplayed Alex Gordon’s single into a two-base error, resulting in a base runner at third, Bumgarner did not lose his composure, retiring Salvador Perez, the man who won the game in extra innings against the Oakland A’s, on a popup to Pablo Sandoval in foul territory, to end the game.

Oct 26, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) and right fielder Hunter Pence (right) celebrate after both scoring runs on a double by left fielder Juan Perez (not pictured) in the 8th inning against the Kansas City Royals during game five of the 2014 World Series at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One would proclaim that the 2014 Giants’ ability to succeed, though molded, shaped and formed along the same lines as its earlier cousins, the 2010 and 2012 teams, took matters one step further, demonstrating that not only could it win the World Championship, it could do so without several key components to its team, lost along the way to injury. Angel Pagan, Matt Cain, and to a certain extent, Michael Morse, have been unable to contribute to the Giants’ postseason success, because of injuries. The 2014 Giants found a way to overcome these odds.

Mirroring the pattern followed by the 2002 Giants team of Barry Bonds, J.T. Snow and Rich Aurilia, up to a certain point, the 2014 San Francisco version went back to Kansas City, needing only one win in two tries, to garner their third championship title in five years, and become the first National League team to accomplish the feat since the St. Louis Cardinals, also known as the GasHouse Gang did so, winning it all in 1942, ’44, and ’46. Unlike the 2002, Dusty Baker-led Giants, the current version broke the pattern, and established its rightful place in MLB history. This after they got blown out of the water in Game Six, 10-0.

Ned Yost, manager of the Royals, maintained all along that the Royals preferred their role, even being down three games to two, because they were playing back home, in front of their fans. Because the Giants have been accustomed to big crowds and the clamor that accompanies them, they were able to push the right buttons on the dashboard, to silence the crowd, and keep it sitting on its hands, while they took care of business.

The big story going into the final game of the 2014 World Series, was the age of the starting tandem of Tim Hudson (39 years old), for the Giants,  and Jeremy Guthrie (35), for the Royals, the oldest duo to start the seventh game of a world series, in MLB history. Hudson, after toiling sixteen years to get to the biggest stage in baseball, finally got his opportunity.

Tim Hudson now has a World Series Ring.   Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Though he had been part of six postseason efforts prior to 2014, with the Oakland A’s (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004) and Atlanta Braves (2005, 2010), Hudson had never been with a team that reached the World Series.

Guthrie, playing in his eighth major league season, the first five seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, was also pitching in his first world series, simply because he was pitching in his first postseason.

Hudson started and like his colleague, Jake Peavy, the previous night, did not get out of the second inning, surrendering both of the Royals’ runs, on three hits, with a walk and a strikeout. Billy Butler led off the inning with a single to center field and Alex Gordon drove him in with a double to right field. When Hudson hit Salvador Perez, just above the left knee, with a pitch, it brought Dave Righetti out to the mound to check on his starter.

Mike Mostakas followed with a drive that Juan Perez tracked down and caught, but it allowed Gordon to advance to third, from where he scored moments later, when Omar Infante hit a sacrifice fly to Gregor Blanco in center field. Next up to bat, Alcides Escobar kept the rally going by singling sharply to left field, moving Perez to second.

Obviously keeping Game Six in mind, particularly the events of the second inning, Bruce Bochy employed the hook, and brought in Jeremy Affeldt. Affeldt did what he does so well in postseason play, by inducing a ground ball out from Nori Aoki, to get out of the inning, with just the two runs scored. That would be all the offense the Royals would be able to mount, over the course of the following seven innings.

With Affeldt pitching the third and fourth innings, and Madison Bumgarner pitching the fifth through ninth innings, the Giants stifled the Royals on three hits over the final seven innings, walking none and striking out four. It was what netted the Giants the title: Epic pitching under the most pressure-packed of conditions.

With pitching dominating the game, it’s not surprising that the numbers one though three spots in the lineup for the Giants went 0-12 for the game, with five K’s and only two balls leaving the infield. That left it up to the numbers four through seven hitters to get it done. They combined to go 8-16, scoring all three runs, with a hit batsman (Sandoval), a scoring sacrifice fly, and a fly ball which advanced a runner ninety feet. 

Pablo Sandoval reached base all four times to the plate, leading off the second, fourth, and sixth innings, by getting on base, with two singles and a double, along with being hit by a pitch. Hunter Pence contributed to both scoring rallies, by hitting two clutch singles, Brandon Belt had two singles, and Michael Morse, the designated hitter, knocked in two Giants’ runs with a sacrifice fly and a tie-breaking single in the decisive fourth inning, the last run scored in the game. Brandon Crawford had just one sacrifice fly in the second inning, but it drove in the second run of the game.

For the Royals, only Alex Gordon had two hits, Billy Butler, Lorenzo Cain, Omar Infante, and Alcides Escobar recording the other four hits, all of them singles. When push came to shove, the Royals played well, but came up one run short.

Jeremy Guthrie started and worked three-and-a-third innings, giving up the three Giants’ runs on four hits, with no walks and three K’s. Kelvin Herrera worked two-and-two-thirds’ innings, giving up three hits, while Wade Davis (seventh/eighth) and Greg Holland finished out the game allowing one hit between the two of them.

The defensive play of the game was a multi-pronged effort by Joe Panik, who dived to his right to spear a hot grounder, and then glove-tossed the ball to Brandon Crawford, who fired on a throw to first, that got Eric Hosmer at first. Initially the play was called safe by the umpire, but after a lengthy delay, the call was reversed by the umpiring crew in New York.

In a series that pitted two teams which mirrored one another, the Giants out-pitched the Royals at their own game, when it mattered the most, and took the Series in the Seventh Game, in the same style as the best.

By virtue of their three titles in five years, 2014 San Francisco Giants now reside amongst the top echelon of teams to have ever played the game. They were outscored by the Royals, 12-3 in the final two games of the Series, and yet split the two games. The number ten seed took the tournament.

Great success!

Michael Morse knocked in two of the three Giants’ runs.. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY

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