KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Madison Bumgarner is a throwback to the days before pampering and pitch counts.
Tall, with droopy hair and the look of a gunslinger, he strung together a sequence of World Series performances seldom seen since the games were played in daylight, kids in school listened on radios and Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Mickey Lolich dominated.
What a fitting way to finish a throwback season that resembled the pitching-and-defense days of the 1960s and ’70s far more than the fin-de-siecle slugfests of the Steroids Era.
“I don’t know if it’ll ever be done again,” Jeremy Affeldt said after Bumgarner came out of the bullpen with five scoreless innings to lead San Francisco over the Kansas City Royals 3-2 Wednesday for the Giants’ third World Series title in five years.
In an age when arms are treated like fragile investments and fear of Tommy John surgery fills every clubhouse, Bumgarner just wanted the ball as often as possible. He won the opener with seven innings of one-run ball, pitched a four-hit shutout over 117 pitches in Game 5 and then whipped 68 more by the Royals in Game 7. He pitched more than one-third of San Francisco’s World Series innings: 21 of 61.
Some grand totals, courtesy of Brooks Baseball: He threw 205 of 291 pitches (70 percent) for strikes. His arsenal of smoke and trickery included 152 fastballs (52 percent), 81 cutters (28 percent), 44 curveballs, 11 changeups and three of those Bugs Bunny slow curves,
“We probably would have won if they didn’t have him,” Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain said. “But they do have him.”
With two wins and a save, Bumgarner dominated in a manner not seen since Arizona’s Randy Johnson won Games 2, 6 and 7 against the New York Yankees in 2001, becoming the first pitcher with three Series victories since Lolich led Detroit to the 1968 title.
After throwing 101 pitches in a 15-2 Game 6 blowout, the Big Unit threw 17 more on no days’ rest the next night. He retired Chuck Knoblauch, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada in order, and the Diamondbacks rallied against Mariano Rivera in the ninth to end the Yankees’ run of three straight championships.
No other pitcher has won three Series games in the expansion era, when the postseason changed from a best-of-seven faceoff of pennant winners to a sprawling month that tests depth and endurance. When St. Louis gave Chris Carpenter three starts in the 2011 Series, it was because of a rainout that meant only the last was on short rest.
In the 45 years of the expansion era, Jack Morris had the singular best Game 7 start, a 10-inning, seven-hit shutout that boosted Minnesota over Atlanta in 1991. That followed a win in the opener and a no-decision in Game 4.
“If it was the 25th inning, I think Jack would still be out there,” Twins teammate Kent Hrbek said. “They would have had to drag him off the mound.”
Morris thinks Bumgarner comes from the same big-game mold.
“I want to hug him,” Morris said at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. “He’s my kind of guy. … He’s got the same emotions, he just doesn’t show them. He’s got a big furnace burning right now.”
In 1968, the last season before expansion and what became known as “The Year of the Pitcher,” the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson threw three complete games against Detroit. After opening with a five-hit shutout, he pitched a five-hitter and allowed one run on three days’ rest to win Game 4.
Gibson permitted a lone infield single through the first six innings of Game 7, again on three days’ rest, then gave up Jim Northrup’s tiebreaking, two-run triple that center fielder Curt Flood misjudged during a three-run seventh in a 4-1 defeat.
Lolich also pitched three complete games and topped Gibson: He threw a six-hitter to win Game 2, a nine-hitter on three days’ rest to win Game 5 and a five-hitter on two days’ rest to win Game 7.
Last weekend, former broadcaster and St. Louis catcher Tim McCarver paid tribute to Bumgarner.
“It’s Gibson-esque, if you will. I know Bob could do that and I saw that from a 60-feet, 6-inch view of him every outing he threw in the World Series. I see the same thing in Bumgarner. I really admire that,” McCarver said.
In 1965, Koufax didn’t pitch the Dodgers’ Series opener at Minnesota because of Yom Kippur and lost to Jim Kaat the following day. Koufax pitched a four-hit shutout on three days’ rest to win Game 5, then came back with a three-hit shutout on two days’ rest to win Game 7.
Going back further, Milwaukee’s Lew Burdette beat the Yankees in Games 2, 5 and 7 in 1957, pitching a seven-hit shutout on two days’ rest in the finale.
And in the Dead Ball Era, the Giants’ Christy Mathewson set the standard against the Philadelphia Athletics with three shutouts: a four-hitter in the opener, another four-hitter on two days’ rest in Game 3 and a five-hitter on two days’ rest in the clinching Game 5.
Of course the game is different no, Bumgarner pitched a record 52 2-3 innings in this postseason, going 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in six starts and the longest appearance for a save in World Series history, a grind that boosted his season total to 270 innings. Bumgarner is 4-0 with a save and a record-low 0.25 ERA in earning three World Series rings.
“He’s a stud. That’s all,” said Tim Hudson, the Giants’ Game 7 starter. “He’s a stud.”