Giants Capture Third World Series In Past Five Years

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Dynasty Defeats Destiny

By John Ventola

Baseball 2014 is now officially over. The San Francisco Giants rode the pitching of lefthander Madison Bumgarner to a World Series clinching 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals to win their third series title in the past five years. The seventh game win between two wildcard teams was unusual in that neither starting pitcher was able to get more than 10 outs and all runs but the deciding one were scored in the first two innings. It put the finishing touches on an entertaining, fan friendly year of outstanding baseball. A year that featured a changing of the guard with the retirement of long-time Yankees captain Derek Jeter, the infusion and continued development of young stars like Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout, and exciting pennant races.

Major league baseball sure put on a show during the post-season competition. Extra inning games, great pitching and defense, timely hitting, and unusual plays were daily occurrences as most games were decided by one run. Games ended on walk off hits,

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Most Games Were Exciting And Close

wild pitches, and wild throws. Two teams that had not won ninety regular season games were able to take their wild-card status, get hot, play solid fundamental baseball, and capture their league pennants. Since the Giants had won World Series championships in 2010 and 2012 and the Royals had last played for all the chips in 1985, it had all the dressings as a “Dynasty Versus Destiny” matchup.

Bumgarner may have the least athletic name around, but the guy can sure pitch. And he seems to get better at this of year, now being a key starter on all three Giants championship teams. And the talented lefthander is now only 25. He pitched a 5-0 shutout to capture game five and then on just a couple days rest came out of the bullpen to pitch five dominating innings to secure the one-run win in game seven. The effort gave him a 2-0 2014 Series record, one save, a 0.43 ERA, as he allowed one run in twenty one innings of work. Bumgarner gave up only nine hits while walking one and striking out 17. His entire post-season worksheet showed seven games, a 4-1 record, 1.03 ERA, 52.2 innings, 28 hits, six walks, and 45 strikeouts. He may not be as intimidating as Kershaw during the regular season, but when the stage gets bigger, Bumgarner seems to become unhittable.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy may not be flashy, but he has shown himself to be a terrific game tactician who does not overmanage. Having key performers like Bumgarner, catcher Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence helps, but he seems to have an innate sense to look ahead (outstanding catch by leftfielder Juan Perez on sharply hit ball in fourth inning saved series). Perez was in game as a defensive specialist because of pesky Royals hitting in a spacious stadium. Bochy has more games to manage, but no reason he should not join recent Hall of Fame inductees Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and Bobby Cox when he decides to leave the bench.

The Giants executed when they had to produce solid baseball plays. After loading the bases with no outs in the second inning against a struggling Jeremy Guthrie, they used two sacrifice flies to plate the first two runs of the game. Then in the fourth inning,

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Aggressive Baserunning Pays Dividends

Sandoval and Pence led off with singles and when Brandon Belt flied out to left field Sandoval tagged up and alertly took third base on a close play. A heads up play that so often decides a close game had been made by a quick player—not a fast player, a quick thinking player who knew he should not be judged by his rotund frame.

With Guthrie departing after Belt’s fly out, designated hitter Michael Morse greeted hard throwing reliever Kevin Herrera with a broken bat single to right field to score what ended up being the winning run. If Sandoval had remained at second he would not have been able to score on Morse’s hit and the Royals would have escaped a bases loaded jam as Herrera proceeded to strike out Brandon Crawford and get Perez to ground out.

The Royals showed what got them to the final game by responding with two runs in the bottom of the second. Alex Gordon batted in Billy Butler with a double and like Sandoval in the top half inning, alertly took third base on a fly out to left field by Mike Moustakas. Gordon scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Omar Infante. Giants starter, veteran Tim Hudson, only lasted for five outs, but Bochy brought in lefthander Jeremy Affeldt to get out of the second inning jam and pitch scoreless third and fourth inning frames that had the Royals ground into consecutive inning double plays. From there it was Mr. Bumgamer, I mean Bumgarner’s game.

Key plays. Great second inning execution by both teams to tie the game at 2-2. Alert base running and the abilities to hit the ball into the air to avoid double plays and bring home runs by sacrifice flies were baseball at its best. Sal Perez getting hit in the left leg

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Nuances Of Baseball–Key Plays And Decisions

by a pitch from Tim Hudson in the second inning all but took the talented catcher out of the game. He gutted it out, but was unable to push off the leg and grounded weakly into a double play after Gordon got on to lead off the fourth inning. When Infante hit a 93 mph fastball from Bumgarner to right field to lead off the bottom of the fifith inning, Royals manager Ned Yost made a blunder when he had hot-hitting Alcides Escobar bunt to move Infante to second. Perez then made the play of the game by backhanding Nori Aoki’s line drive that was heading for the corner in left field, a play eerily similar to a long ago catch by the Dodgers Sandy Amoros that saved the 1955 World Series win over the Yankees (except Amoros was a lefthander and the catch was easier). Yost, no doubt, had the two double plays from the third and fourth innings on his mind, but that mindset cost him dearly as the Royals lost their aggressive approach and it let Bumgarner settle into a rhythm.

The Giants continue the great tradition first established by the franchise in the old Polo Grounds of New York City. The Royals appeared in their third World Series, losing to Tim McGraw’s dad Tug and his Phillies teammates in 1980, and defeating St. Louis in the Battle of Missouri in 1985. This writer rode a train as a youngster to Kansas City in 1960 to see the old A’s play the Chicago White Sox. A terrible team at that time, often raided by the New York Yankees for their promising young talent (joke then was they were a Yankees’ farm team) in exchange for declining veterans, that year they featured journeyman Dick Williams. Yeah, the same Dick Williams who would go on to manage the team to World Series titles after owner Charles Finley moved the franchise to Oakland. One key guy who started in Kansas City in the ‘50s, had a short stint in Cleveland before moving on to the Yankees? Roger Maris.

Pharmaceutical magnate Ewing Kaufmann brought baseball back to Kansas City in the early ‘70s with the novel approach of a baseball academy. A former high school teammate of mine was in the Royals organization at that time and raved how well it was run. Developing talent was the goal, but some things, although new thought processes were in place, did not change. First Royals star Lou Pinella was traded, went on to be a mainstay for the Yankees, and also manage the team.

Future years for both the Giants and the Royals look bright, but unlike the old days, when you could say the cast of characters were set, free agency and other salary constraints make that statement somewhat risky. Keeping that young talent in place will be top priority for the two front offices. In any case, both teams treated fans to some memorable baseball. Thank you Giants and Royals. It was fun to watch!

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ByJohn


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