James Shields may have been given the nickname "Big Game," but his postseason track record over the last few seasons – especially this year – suggests it’s a bit inaccurate.
Instead, his counterpart for Game 5 of the World Series has been proving himself more deserving of such a moniker.
Madison Bumgarner looks to move the San Francisco Giants within a win of a third World Series crown in five years Sunday night as he faces Shields and the Kansas City Royals.
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Shields has been the Royals’ ace since coming over in a trade from Tampa Bay prior to last season, with 27 regular-season wins and a 3.18 ERA. It’s only natural for Kansas City to have high playoff expectations for him, though he’s had trouble living up to them.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 7.11 ERA in four postseason starts after giving up five runs and seven hits in three innings of a 7-1 loss in Game 1.
"It’s just kind of one of those things as a baseball player you’ve got to really hone in (your emotions)," Shields said. "I’ve been on this stage before, and I know exactly what to feel like when I’m out there. I think this time around I’m not going to be as amped up and (will) just try to keep my emotions in check."
Shields is 1-3 with an 8.26 ERA in six playoff outings since 2010, and despite those struggles, manager Ned Yost is confident he’ll make the necessary adjustments.
"I know his intensity, I know his work ethic, I know his competitiveness," Yost said. "I know (Sunday), when he steps on that mound, he’s going to be ready both physically and mentally to compete and give us his best effort, and that’s all I can ask."
As much as the Royals need a better outing from Shields, they’ll also have to figure out a way to solve Bumgarner, who allowed one run and three hits over seven innings to pick up a victory in the opener.
Bumgarner is 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA in five postseason starts, and a report circulated that the left-hander had demanded to start Game 4 on three days’ rest. Both he and manager Bruce Bochy denied the rumor, and Ryan Vogelsong got the start as planned.
"It sounds like I’m trying to run the team, which I’m certainly not," Bumgarner said. "It doesn’t make any sense to me why that would happen. I never said anything to anyone about anything. We knew that was an option, and I prepared where I would be ready for Game 4 or 5 or any of them. That’s just ridiculous."
No matter, Bumgarner has a chance to help the Giants take a 3-2 series lead after they scored the final 10 runs during an 11-4 victory in Saturday’s Game 4 at AT&T Park.
The Royals scored four in the third inning to take a three-run advantage, but Hunter Pence led the comeback by going 3 for 5 with three RBIs. Joe Panik and Pablo Sandoval also drove in two runs, and the Giants’ bullpen pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings after Vogelsong failed to make it out of the third.
"We never give up, that’s the thing," Sandoval said. "We’ve been doing it all year in these situations. We know how that feels."
San Francisco’s victory assured the World Series of shifting back to Kansas City for at least Game 6. Three of the four games have been decided by at least five runs.
"Oh, man, somewhere inside of me, secretly I had hoped that it would go seven games for the excitement and the thrill of it," Yost said. ”Sure looks that way."