The Daily Gamecock

Column: Giants owe World Series win to star pitcher

Bumgarner's playoff play earns him spot among the greats

This past Wednesday, the 110th World Series came to a close, with the San Francisco Giants besting the Kansas City Royals in an exciting yet stressful Game 7. The championship established the Giants as a proverbial dynasty, earning their third championship in five years, each one more outstanding than the last.

Leading the way for San Francisco was a 25-year-old pitcher by the name of Madison Bumgarner. While few casual baseball fans knew his name before the postseason, they certainly know it now. In just under 48 postseason innings, Bumgarner allowed only 6 earned runs. His team went 5-1 in his starts, which included two complete game shutouts and five innings of shutout relief in the final World Series game.

It’s hard to overstate exactly how dominant Bumgarner was over this past month, but it needs to be said how truly heroic his performance was. Only a handful of pitchers have had playoff performances as masterful as his. However, while the total body of work is impressive in itself, what amazed me was his ability to come in relief in Game 7 despite pitching nine innings three nights before.

A starting pitcher typically operates on a five-day rotation, meaning they pitch on their scheduled days with four days of rest in between. Bumgarner had the typical amount of rest between his starts in Game 1 and Game 5. In those two games he threw a combined 16 innings, giving up one run on seven hits, throwing 223 pitches. I thought the odds of seeing him a third time in the World Series was slim to none, as he has never pitched on three days rest, let alone two.

I was wrong. In the bottom of the fifth inning Bumgarner trotted out to the mound to take on the Royals lineup. At this point I assumed he would go no more than an inning, just to get the Giants a couple desperately-needed outs. Again I was wrong, as he cruised through his first inning of work and came out for another. And at that moment, I somehow was still in disbelief; there was no way he could keep going, no way he could go the distance.

Do you see the pattern yet?

In my experience as a baseball fan I’ve only seen this type of work on such short rest twice. Randy Johnson did it in the 2001 Series, pitching to four batters in Game 7 after starting Game 6 the previous night. The second occasion was Derek Lowe in the 2004 ALCS. After pitching five innings in Game 4, Lowe came back on two days rest and threw six innings of one run baseball to help the Red Sox overcome the Yankees and advance to the World Series.

With all due respect, Bumgarner blew those two performances away. These comparisons may seem like a waste of time to people that don’t spend their nights poring over Baseball Reference for fun as I often do, but consider yourself lucky if you’ve watched the Giants throughout this postseason. You’ll be able to tell your kids someday that you were witness to one of the greatest pitching performances in the history of baseball.