Madison. Kyle. Bumgarner. The San Francisco Giants had 25 men on the roster in the 2014 World Series, but none were as magnificent as their Most Valuable Player. Bumgarner’s five innings of work in Game 7 to earn the save after winning Games 1 and 5 cemented his place in baseball history forever.
Madison Bumgarner‘s first experience in the World Series came in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series against the Texas Rangers as a 20 year old. Four years later, he left Kaufmann Stadium with a carer record of 4-0 record with a 0.25 earned run average, with 31 strikeouts and only five walks in 36 innings pitched.
2014 was all about Bumgarner, as he began the post-season with a complete game shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game and ended it as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.
Bumgarner was among nine San Francisco Giants players to have won their third World Series ring. Buster Posey, the team’s other cornerstone to all three World Series titles, was Bumgarner’s battery mate throughout the entire run. Starting pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, who had been the team’s previous aces in 2010 and 2012 respectively, took a backseat this time around. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who won the MVP in 2012, was one of the most consistent hitters once again in 2014 and caught the final out to seal the 2014 championship. And the bullpen enjoyed the most familiarity at the ring ceremonies with all four members of the “Core Four” part of each championship. For Jeremy Affeldt, it was especially significant, because he began his career in Kansas City and was named the winning pitcher of Game 7.
2014 was also a coming out party for some other homegrown Giants, including Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford. They helped establish the Giants as one of the best infields in baseball and were a part of one of the greatest plays in World Series history.
With Tim Hudson struggling early in Game 7, Affeldt was called in as he had so many times before, to help settle the game down. This time it was in the second inning, and just like so many playoff appearances before, Affeldt did his job. It wasn’t without help though, and what the infield of Panik, Crawford and Belt pulled off was truly something that must be seen to be believed.
With Lorenzo Cain on 1st and Eric Hosmer at the plate, Hosmer hit a ball to the right side of Panik. After a sensational diving stop, Panik quickly flipped the ball towards Crawford who had to make the quick exchange from glove to hand a fire flat footed at Belt. As Belt reached out to catch the throw, Hosmer slid into first and the initial call on the field was safe. However, after instant replay, it was clear that the throw beat the slide and the Giants had officially turned one of the great double plays in history.
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Michael Morse, who was signed in the off-season to be the team’s every day left fielder, was the designated hitter in Game 7 and his sacrifice fly in the second inning and single in the fourth inning gave the Giants the lead and cushion it needed to win the game. It was also his eighth inning home run off Pat Neshak in the National League Championship Series that kept the Giants in the game before they ever reached the World Series.
Morse’s contributions often get overshadowed because of performances like Bumgarner’s but also because of home runs like Travis Ishikawa‘s. Ishikawa, who didn’t even begin the season with the Giants in 2014, ended up hitting one of the greatest home runs in baseball history to clinch the NLCS for the Giants and send them to the World Series in a walk off.
For a man who played mostly first base in his career, he ended up playing left field that post-season for the Giants. His swing will live in Giants history forever and it will be remembered as one of the greatest moments in baseball history as well. The unlikeliest of heros, came through in historic fashion