Winning his third championship at the age of just 25, Bumgarner arrived out to the mound to protect his team’s slender 3-2 lead in the fourth inning.
But the starting pitcher had just thrown his team to a Game Five win in San Francisco on Sunday night, a so-called complete game shutout — throwing the entire nine innings and not conceding a single run.
Normally, a starting pitcher would need five days rest after a strenuous workout like that but with the Giants pitching staff struggling badly, manager Bruce Bochy decided to bring in his ace as a drastic measure to curb the Royals threat who were buoyed by a vociferous home support seeking their first World Series in over 30 years.
“What a warrior he is, and truly incredible what he did throughout the postseason,” Bochy said of Bumgarner.
“I just told him I just can’t believe what he accomplished through all this. He’s such a humble guy, and we rode him pretty good. I was staying away from him every inning,” the manager added, “because I was hoping he wouldn’t go, ‘I’m starting to get a little tired,’ because there’s no way I would have taken him out unless he would have told me that.”
The unflappable Bumgarner threw 117 pitches on Sunday night and then 68 more times on Wednesday. “He just kept rolling,” Giants catcher Buster Posey said. “I mean, it’s unbelievable.”
Team mates, struggling to comprehend what the young star achieved, could only marvel at Bumgarner’s five-inning display, during which he conceded no runs and barely allowed any Royals to get on base.
“He didn’t lose a bit of energy. He didn’t lose a bit of stuff,” injured pitching teammate Matt Cain said of Bumgarner’s performances this year. “Sometimes you wonder if he’s got a pulse.”
“I wasn’t thinking about innings or pitch count,” Bumgarner said.
“I was just thinking about getting outs, getting outs until I couldn’t get them anymore and we needed someone else. Fortunately, I was able to get some quick innings and I was able to stay in there.”
In spite of the incredible performance of the opposing pitcher, the Kansas City fans still held some hope right until the end when a mistake in the outfield allowed Alex Gordon to reach third base, just 90 feet from levelling the game in the bottom of the ninth. But then Bumgarner struck out the final hitter of the evening, catcher Salvador Perez, and celebrations began for the Bay Area.
“It hurts,” said Royals manager Ned Yost after the game, “to come as close as we came in a one-run game, and to really ... as magical as our run has been ... to end up losing the ball game by 90 feet is tough.
“But the hard part about this is that you work all year to climb to the top of the mountain, and then boom, you fall back and you’ve got to start right back at the bottom again next year.”
Having never won a World Series since the Giants moved from New York in the 1950s, San Francisco have now clinched three titles in five seasons. They beat Texas to win the franchise’s first title since 1954 in 2010 and then two years later, they swept Detroit. As for Bumgarner, he was finally able to give in to the rigours of a busy week when asked how he felt after the game.
“You know what?” he said. “I can’t lie to you anymore. I’m a little tired now.”