Madison Bumgarner ends KC’s Cinderella run
Major League baseball’s biggest stage provided the backdrop for a historic World Series that featured a pair of Wild Card teams in the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals.
San Francisco’s appearance and subsequent World Championship couldn’t have been much of a surprise seeing that the Giants have been the sport’s top team in 2010 and 2012. The team’s 2014 title was its third in five years. The Giants have been baseball’s World Champions in every even year of the decade.
What was a surprise was Madison Bumgarner’s 2014 postseason performance. The 24-year old Hickory, NC native picked up two wins and a five-inning save in the decisive game on two days’ rest. The World Series alone was enough to etch Bumgarner’s name in baseball’s history books.
But his miraculous run began in the 2014 National League Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh when he shut out the Pirates. San Francisco went on to dispatch the top-seeded Washington Nationals and later, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals or Giants have represented the Senior Circuit in every World Series this decade.
While the Giants’ performance was dominant, Kansas City, which made the playoffs for the first time since 1985 (when it ousted St. Louis to win its only World Series in franchise history), ripped through the American League Playoffs with eight consecutive wins, including a comeback win over Oakland in the Wild Card game.
The Royals went on to sweep the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (who entered the playoffs with the game’s best record) and AL East Champion Baltimore en route to an appearance in the World Series.
The Royals earned their way into the Fall Classic in an old school manner. They didn’t hit a slew of home runs. They played small ball like the great Kansas City teams of the 1980’s. The Royals bunted, stole bases and played smart baseball. KC got solid (if not stellar) starting with pitching and played station-to-station offense.
The Royals had an outstanding bullpen and plated seven runs in the second inning of Game Six to push the series to the limit.
Their Cinderella Dream didn’t quite come true as San Francisco (with the help of Bumgarner) claimed a 3-2 win in the seventh game.
The Giants had stars like Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, who had all won World Championships. But it was Bumgarner, who stole the show with three historic pitching performances. He surrendered just one run in two starts and an improbable relief appearance.
The Royals had only one player with significant postseason experience in No. 1 starter James Shields, a former Tampa Bay Ray. Shields, however, didn’t have his best days in the World Series and he’ll likely not return in 2015.
The Royals refused to quit and got a historical postseason stint of their own (from relief pitcher Brandon Finnegan) who was pitching in the College World Series for Texas Christian University earlier this summer.
Pitchers Kelvin Herrera and Yordano Ventura are now household names in baseball.
Time will tell if they will continue their potential rise to stardom in Kansas City. The Royals are a small-market team and financial restraints may force them to get rid of their new stars. We’ll have to see about that one but for one short moment; baseball was relevant again in Kansas City, a town that was once home to greats such as George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Willie Wilson and the late, great submarine-style relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry.
The Giants will likely make a return trip to baseball’s grand stage soon. Here’s hoping that the Royals can join them again in the near future.