It was in that postseason that Bumgarner recorded the greatest save of all time, part of an incredible legacy that serves as the trademark for his career.
Setting the stage
Bumgarner won two games earlier in that World Series: Game 1 in Kansas City and Game 5 in San Francisco, the latter a four-hit shutout that put the Giants up three games to two and seemed likely to be his last appearance of the season.
Even without what was to happen, Bumgarner had an incredible postseason to that point: 47 2/3 innings pitched, four wins and a 1.13 ERA.
But the Royals won Game 6, setting up a winner-take-all game between the teams, with veteran Tim Hudson starting for the Giants.
Hudson didn’t last long -- 1 2/3 innings allowing two runs and three hits. Jeremy Affeldt relieved Hudson and went as long as he could: 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Mike Morse’s RBI hit in the fourth inning put the Giants ahead, 3-2, and an inning later, manager Bruce Bochy made the call for his ace.
The best performance
Bumgarner allowed a leadoff hit to Omar Infante, then mowed down the next 14 batters. With two outs in the ninth, Alex Gordon singled, and when Gregor Blanco misplayed the ball, Gordon went to third base.
The game came down to Bumgarner against Salvador Pérez, and on a 2-2 pitch, Pérez popped out. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval made the catch in front of the Giants dugout and fell over, with the Giants somehow avoiding trampling him in pursuit of their heroic pitcher.
Bumgarner’s five scoreless innings gave him the first save of that length in World Series history. It lowered his World Series ERA to 0.25 (one earned run in 36 innings), which will rank as the best if he never pitches in the Fall Classic again. His WHIP is minuscule as well – 0.53.
Bumgarner logged 52 2/3 innings that postseason (the most by any pitcher since the postseason went to three rounds), pitching to a 1.03 ERA.
He became the first pitcher to record two wins and post a sub-0.50 ERA in at least 20 innings within a World Series since Sandy Koufax for the Dodgers against the Twins in 1965. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that only one other pitcher threw at least five scoreless innings of relief in a winner-take-all World Series game -- Joe Page of the 1947 Yankees in a win against the Dodgers.
The great road performance was nothing new for Bumgarner. He had one more after that -- a shutout of the Mets in the 2016 National League wild-card game. For his career, he’s 6-0 with a 0.50 ERA on the road in the postseason. He's allowed one earned run in his last 47 2/3 road innings, on a home run to Pérez in Game 1 of the 2014 World Series.
How he did it
Bumgarner threw 37 of his 68 pitches in the upper third of the strike zone or higher (54 percent), his highest percentage in 236 career appearances (regular season and postseason). He recorded 11 of his 15 outs and nine of his 12 swings and misses in that location.
Bumgarner returned to that approach in his next postseason appearance. His second-highest rate of high pitches came in the 2016 NL wild-card shutout against the Mets (54 percent).
Bumgarner had a great fastball-slider combo in that 2014 World Series. He threw 76 percent strikes with his fastball. The Royals were 3-for-19 with one hard-hit ball against the slider.
Affeldt was Bumgarner, without the hype
Forgotten in Bumgarner’s greatness was Affeldt’s excellence. His scoreless appearance was the 22nd straight of his postseason career, which the Elias Sports Bureau notes is one shy of the most all time (by Mariano Rivera, though Rivera’s appearances were of greater length and higher leverage). Affeldt closed his postseason career with 23 1/3 scoreless innings.
Affeldt’s 0.86 postseason ERA ranks third among retired pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched, trailing Rivera (0.70) and Harry Brecheen (0.83) and just ahead of Babe Ruth (0.87).
The Giants used 12 pitchers in that World Series, but only two are currently on their 2017 roster -- Bumgarner and reliever Hunter Strickland. The Royals' pitching staff features three pitchers who pitched in that 2014 series for Kansas City -- Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera and Jason Vargas. The latter will be Bumgarner’s opponent, and he has a 0.66 ERA in two starts this season.
Four Giants hit .300 or better in that Series, three of whom could be in the lineup tonight: Hunter Pence (.444), Brandon Belt (.308) and Brandon Crawford (.304). The Royals also could start three .300 hitters from the Series -- Pérez (.333), Alcides Escobar (.310) and Lorenzo Cain (.308).
The player who got the winning hit in Game 7 -- Morse -- won't be in the ballpark. He's currently rehabbing a hamstring injury in the minor leagues. He's back with the Giants after two seasons with the Marlins and Pirates.
Shed no tears for the Royals, who beat the Mets in the 2015 World Series, with Pérez winning MVP honors. They became the first team to win a World Series the year after losing it since the 1989 Athletics, and Pérez became the first player to go from last out to World Series MVP in a year’s time.
Sarah Langs and Lee Singer also contributed to this article.