For the third time in five years, and the eighth time in franchise history, the Giants are world champions. With Madison Bumgarner making his much-anticipated appearance out of the bullpen and throwing five innings on two days' rest to preserve a one-run lead, San Francisco beat the Royals 3-2 in Kansas City, becoming the first team to win Game 7 of the World Series on the road since the Pirates did so in Baltimore in 1979.
1. Battle of the bullpens
As expected, neither starting pitcher — Tim Hudson for the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals — lasted long. Both managers went to their bullpen after flurries of hits threatened to blow the game open early, just as they did in Games 1, 4 and 6. Hudson and Guthrie combined to throw only five innings, matching the 1947 tandem of Spec Shea (Yankees) and Hal Gregg (Dodgers) as the shortest pair of Game 7 starts in World Series history, and were charged with all five of the game's runs. From there, five relievers — Jeremy Affeldt and Bumgarner for the Giants, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland for the Royals — combined to deliver 13 innings of shutout ball while striking out 16 and allowing just seven hits without a walk.
Bumgarner did the lion's share of that work, entering the game in the fifth inning, with Affeldt having bridged the gap from a shaky Hudson by tossing 2 1/3 scoreless frames. His outing began inauspiciously, with a loud single to Omar Infante. Infante then advanced to second on a questionably timed sacrifice bunt by Alcides Escobar, who had gotten ahead 2-0; Kansas City manager Ned Yost said afterward that Escobar was bunting on his own. Bumgarner took advantage of the gift out, recovering to retire Nori Aoki on a fly to left (excellent positioning by leftfielder Juan Perez helped) and then striking out Lorenzo Cain (with a strike call on a first-pitch slider that PITCHf/x showed as missing the zone low and away).
That was as close as the Royals got against the 25-year-old lefty until there were two outs in the ninth. Bumgarner set the next 11 hitters down without any of them coming close to reaching safely. After needing 15 pitches for the fifth, he used just 12 for the sixth and nine for the seventh, no small consideration for a pitcher from whom Bochy expected somewhere between 50 and 60 pitches. His 16-pitch eighth inning ran his pitch count to 52, but Bochy sent him back out for the ninth.
Working his 270th inning of the year, Bumgarner struck out Eric Hosmer on five pitches and needed just two to retire Billy Butler, moving San Francisco within one out of the title. Bumgarner's streak of 14 straight batters retired ended when Alex Gordon hit a drive to deep centerfield that was ruled a single and a two-base error on Gregor Blanco (Perez didn’t help the situation, failing to pick up the ball cleanly at the wall and allowing Gordon to go to third). With his pitch count at 62 and the tying run 90 feet away, Bumgarner battled Salvador Perez for six pitches, finally getting him to foul out to Sandoval to seal the championship.
Bumgarner's outing ran his total this postseason to 52 2/3 innings, breaking the record of 48 1/3 innings set by the Diamondbacks' Curt Schilling in 2001. He finished having allowed just 28 hits and six runs (a 1.03 ERA) with a 45:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Furthermore, he lowered his career World Series ERA to 0.25 (one run in 36 innings) with just 14 hits and a 31:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He finished the World Series with two wins and a Game 7 save, and of course took home MVP honors.
2. An early exit
Prior to the game, when asked about his plan for Guthrie, Yost told reporters, "If he gets us through four [innings], we're in great shape." Guthrie wound up working 3 1/3, which left the Royals in something less than great shape. While he needed just 10 pitches to retire the side in the first, the Giants loaded the bases against him with nobody out in the top of the second via a Sandoval hit-by-pitch and then singles by Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt. San Francisco brought home two runs via sacrifice flies, the first by Michael Morse and the second by Brandon Crawford, before Guthrie struck out Perez to end the inning.
Guthrie rebounded to work a 1-2-3 third inning capped by strikeouts of Joe Panik and Buster Posey, but when Sandoval and Pence both singled to start the fourth, the bullpen went to work. Sandoval advanced to third on a flyout to Gordon in deep left, and then Guthrie gave way to the smoke-throwing Herrera. The Royals' reliever got ahead of Morse 0-2 but then yielded a broken-bat RBI single to rightfield giving the Giants the 3-2 lead that Bumgarner preserved the rest of the way.
3. An earlier exit
Guthrie wasn't the first starter to depart. As in Game 6, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was forced to consider using a quicker-than-usual hook for his starting pitcher, and again he needed it. While Hudson worked a scoreless first inning, he retired just two of the six batters he faced in the second, with both outs advancing the runner.
The barrage started with a single up the middle by Butler, and then a double to deep right-center by Gordon, with "Country Breakfast" hauling all 240 pounds of himself home to cut the score to 2-1. Hudson then hit Perez with an 89 mph sinker just above the left knee; Kansas City's catcher crumpled to the ground and looked as though he might need to leave the game before he finally limped down to first.
The delay gave Bochy time to get both Affeldt and righthander Tim Lincecum warming up in the bullpen. Hudson retired Mike Moustakas on a fly to leftfield, with Gordon challenging Perez's arm and advancing to third base. That proved huge because Gordon then came in to score the game's tying run on Infante's fly ball to centerfield. An Escobar single to left sent Perez to second, gingerly, and it spelled the end of Hudson's night after just four outs and 28 pitches. Affeldt came in and escaped the jam by inducing Aoki to hit into a forceout.
Hudson's start marked the sixth time a starting pitcher failed to complete two innings in a World Series Game 7 start. The previous five:
Thanks in part to those quick hooks, three of those teams (the ones with the asterisks) still managed to win. Note that I've eliminated a one-inning start by Smoky Joe Wood in Game 7 of the 1912 World Series, as an 11-inning tie in Game 2 forced that series to go to a decisive eighth game.