Giants one win from World Series title as Bumgarner blanks Royals
1. Bumgarner brilliant again: Once again, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner dominated the opposition, blanking the Royals for his second complete game shutout of the postseason. The 25-year-old lefty allowed just four hits, struck out eight, didn't walk a hitter and never allowed a runner past second base. He retired 10 straight at one point, a streak broken by Omar Infante's fifth-inning double. That was the only base runner Kansas City got into scoring position, and Bumgarner stranded Infante by striking out Jarrod Dyson and James Shields.
The numbers for Bumgarner's 2014 postseason are just staggering: 4-1 with a 0.944 ERA in 47 2/3 innings in which he has allowed 26 hits, six earned runs and six walks while striking out 41 batters. In four career World Series starts, Bumgarner — who pitched shutout ball in his lone start of the 2010 and '12 Fall Classics, respectively — has allowed only one earned run in 31 innings. His complete game shutout is the first in the World Series since Josh Beckett dominated the Yankees in the decisive Game 6 in 2003. (Cliff Lee didn't allow an earned run against the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2009 Series, but did let an unearned run cross the plate). Bumgarner even punctuated the evening by retiring the last nine hitters he faced.
There's a chance that Bumgarner could pitch again in this Series, likely out of the bullpen, if the Giants drop Game 6 and need their ace in Game 7. But if San Francisco closes out the Royals in Game 6, Bumgarner all but locked up the World Series MVP award with his masterpiece on Sunday.
2. Shields bounces back: He didn't get the win, but James Shields earned himself a measure of redemption in Game 5. Coming off a horrific Game 1 outing in which he gave up five runs in three innings and took the loss, Shields kept Kansas City within striking distance of Bumgarner and the Giants, giving up two earned runs in six innings, though he again took the defeat. The right-hander had to avoid trouble regularly, as nine runners reached base against him via eight hits and a walk. But armed with a stellar cut fastball, Shields struck out four and stymied San Francisco enough to pick up the first quality start for a Royals pitcher in this World Series.
The Giants didn't hit Shields particular hard — all eight hits were singles, and the two runs scored against him came across on a groundout by Brandon Crawford in the second and a bloop single by Crawford in the fourth. For the most part, Shields kept San Francisco off-balance with an assortment of fastballs and changeups. In particular, Shields leaned on his cutter, throwing it 35 times and getting 12 swings and misses. All told, Shields got 20 whiffs on his 94 pitches; in Game 1, he got Giants hitters to swing and miss just four times on 70 offerings.
While Shields' strong night wasn't enough to get the Royals the win, it should give Ned Yost plenty of confidence to use his ace in some capacity in Game 7, should the Royals get that far.
3. Royals' offense scuffling: After breaking out for seven runs in Game 2, Kansas City fell into a total offensive funk at AT&T Park. The Royals managed just seven runs in 27 innings on the West Coast and haven't scored since the third inning of Game 4.
The slump hasn't been restricted to just the last three games, however. The middle of the Royals' order has come up woefully short. After an 0-for-4 night, Alex Gordon is now 2-for-20 in the Series. Mike Moustakas has just three hits in 16 at-bats and went hitless in Game 5. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain (five hits apiece) have both contributed, but between the pair, they have just two extra-base hits in five games.
What's more, Yost's big lineup change for the National League venue — replacing Nori Aoki with Jarrod Dyson in the outfield — didn't have a significant impact, as Dyson went 2-for-8 in the three games, including 0-for-2 in Game 5 before being pulled for Billy Butler in the eighth. That was the only plate appearance for Butler in San Francisco, with the burly designated hitter striking out looking.
Getting away from the NL rules should be a boon to the Royals, who will get Butler back in the lineup as the DH for Game 6. What will be worth watching is if Yost goes back to his original outfield alignment of Gordon, Cain and Aoki on Tuesday, and his original lineup with Aoki in the second spot and Gordon back down to sixth. It'll be up to Yost to come up with something creative to try to snap Kansas City out of its skid as it faces elimination.