SAN FRANCISCO — As San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner sauntered out to the AT&T Park mound to finish off his Game 5 masterpiece, the public address cued up Cake’s “The Distance.”
Ten pitches later, the tune proved prescient. Bumgarner had his well-earned shutout — the first by a Giants pitcher in the World Series in 52 years and San Francisco moved to within one win of its third World Series title in five seasons with a commanding 5-0 win over Kansas City on Sunday night.
“I felt great all night,” Bumgarner said after the game. “Really, this time of year, it’s not hard to go out there and feel good.”
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He sure made it look easy. Bumgarner allowed just four hits, struck out eight, walked none and allowed just one runner to advance past first base.
In a bubble, his performance was positively exemplary. If this had been Bumgarner’s one and only career World Series start, it would’ve been career-making.
Of course, the Hickory, North Carolina native has been baffling American League hitters in the Fall Classic across parts of five years now, and his World Series numbers are so unfathomably good that they simply seem to defy all logic:
Yes, that’s one (one!) earned run in 31 World Series innings.
In 2010, a 21-year-old Bumgarner put the Giants one win away from a championship, tossing eight shutout innings against the Texas Rangers in Game 4. His six strikeouts and five baserunners allowed showed the larger baseball world that a postseason wunderkind had arrived on the scene.
In 2012, Bumgarner, at 23, got the call in Game 2 against the Detroit Tigers, allowing only four baserunners and striking out eight in seven shutout innings. The Giants would go on to sweep the Tigers, so there was no need for a repeat performance that time around.
And Bumgarner, now the undisputed ace of the staff, set the tone for San Francisco in Game 1 of this World Series, tossing seven innings of one-run ball at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City en route to a 7-1 Giants win that looms large as they take a 3-2 series lead back there.
“I’m just happy we won,” Bumgarner said. “Going back into Kansas City with two games, it’s a whole lot better that we have to win one now instead of having to win two.”
There have only actually been two shutouts — well, now three — thrown in the World Series since 2000: Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2001 against the New York Yankees and Florida’s Josh Beckett in 2003, also against the Yankees.
The last pitcher to throw a shutout in the postseason while walking none and fanning at least eight: St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter in the 2011 NLDS.
The last pitcher to do that in a World Series game? Well, it had never been done before Sunday night.
What makes Bumgarner’s statistics in these 2014 playoffs so bafflingly good — a 1.13 ERA, 41 strikeouts, 26 hits, six walks — is that they’re born of the second-largest sample size recorded. Curt Schilling’s 48 1/3 innings in 2001 are the most innings thrown by a pitcher in one postseason. Bumgarner — for now — stands at 47 2/3.
“I really felt like I did most of the postseason,” said Bumgarner, his left arm still clearly attached to its shoulder socket.
Might Bumgarner come in for a quick relief spell if the Series goes to a Game 7 and a title is on the line? Giants manager Bruce Bochy indicated after the game that should the need arise in a Game 7 for Bumgarner’s services, he would not at all be opposed to such assistance.
“He’d have two days off, and he’s a strong kid,” Bochy said. “We wouldn’t mind pushing him one time.”
Bumgarner, as expected, is all for the idea. “I’m not a big pitch-count kind of guy,” he said, after having just thrown 117 of them. “As long as you keep getting outs and you feel good, you should stay out there.”
But if the Giants win Game 6 on Tuesday in Kansas City, Bumgarner (the current favorite for World Series MVP) will have bookended his 2014 postseason resume with an emphatic shutout on each end.
First, in the Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh, when his team’s playoff hopes were as assured as a coin flip. Now, after a historic night in San Francisco, he has the Giants in sight of another championship.
Madison Bumgarner went the distance in Game 5. It’s up to his teammates to finish the job.