After a postseason that has given us game after game of late-inning drama, I guess we were due for a game such as this one. You feel bad for Royals fans who were so excited and pumped up before the game. Although the team that won Game 1 has gone on to win 22 of the past 26 World Series, Royals fans can perhaps take consolation in remembering the 1985 Royals lost the first two at home before they recovered and won that series in seven games. Some will inevitably blame the Royals' long layoff as one reason for the loss, but as Royals manager Ned Yost said after the game, "I don't think the layoff had anything to do with tonight's game. I think Madison Bumgarner had something to do with tonight's game."
Five key moments from the Giants' 7-1 victory in the opener:
1. 106 pitches for Bumgarner.
— #OctoberTogether (@SFGiants) October 22, 2014
Bumgarner might chug 8 beers at one time tonight just for the hell of it.
— Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) October 22, 2014
— SB Nation MLB (@SBNationMLB) October 22, 2014
And the legend grows. Bumgarner improved to 3-0 in three career World Series starts, though he has now allowed one run in 22 innings after Salvador Perez homered in the seventh inning Tuesday. But Bumgarner stretched his record streak of scoreless postseason innings on the road to 32 2/3 and lowered his 2014 postseason ERA to 1.40.
Bumgarner wasn't completely on in the early going -- he had 53 pitches through three innings -- but after pitching out of a jam in the third inning, he settled into a nice groove and threw just 43 pitches over his next four innings. He helped himself with three nice fielding plays and showed why many consider him to be the big difference-maker in this series. The Giants are now 9-2 in this postseason and a big reason for that is Bumgarner has started five of those 11 games.
"It's all about making pitches," Bumgarner drawled after the game. "I know that's a boring answer, but that's really what it's about."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy had another explanation for Bumgarner's postseason success: "He just keeps that maniacal focus you like."
Royals fans are left pondering this fate: They now have to win four of the next six games to take the crown. One of those six games will be started by Madison Bumgarner. Good luck.
2. Giants explode out of the gate.
— MLB Fan Cave (@MLBFanCave) October 22, 2014
Is that the 3rd time Posey’s been thrown out at the plate in the playoffs?
— Mike Ferrin (@MikeFerrinSXM) October 22, 2014
The Royals have done well in the post season in spite of "Big Game" James Shields. They'll have to do the same again tonight.
— The Captain's Blog (@williamnyy23) October 22, 2014
I loathe pitching to Pence but jesus I love watching him as a fan
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) October 22, 2014
Royals fans waited 29 long, mostly miserable years to get back to the World Series and were greeted with an unfortunate series of events in the top of the first inning, when the Giants jumped out to a quick, crowd-silencing 3-0 lead that could have been worse.
Gregor Blanco started things off innocently enough, with a blooper to center that even Lorenzo Cain couldn't get to. As Jayson Stark pointed out, Shields has struggled all postseason with the leadoff batter: Nine of 18 against him to that point had reached. Blanco then smartly tagged up on Joe Panik's drive to deep left-center, and Buster Posey lined a sharp single to left field, with Blanco holding up at third base against Alex Gordon's powerful arm. Pablo Sandoval then doubled into the right-field corner to score Blanco, but for some reason, third-base coach Tim Flannery waved home Posey, who runs like we expect catchers to run, and he was easily thrown out by 10 feet (he didn't even bother to slide), despite Norichika Aoki's looping relay throw from right field.
But the big blow came from Hunter Pence, who drilled a 3-2, 93-mph fastball over the fence 403 feet away in right-center. Pence had fouled off the previous fastball, but this one was pretty much right down the middle. Major league hitters don't miss that pitch too often. It was bad enough for the Royals that it gave them an early 3-0 deficit, but that hit could also help get Pence's bat going. It was just his second home run since Sept. 2 and his second home run in 32 career postseason games. He had entered the game hitting just .192/.271/.262 since the beginning of September.
Shields threw 32 pitches in the inning, and there was the onslaught of predictable "Big Game James" jokes on Twitter (a reminder that the nickname was given to him in the minor leagues and not for his actual performance in big games).
3. Bumgarner works out of big jam in the third inning.
Can't get over the 2nd/3rd nobody out bottom of 3rd inning situation. In a career of brilliance, probably Bumgarner's finest moment.
— Brian Murphy (@knbrmurph) October 22, 2014
Second and third, nobody out. Bumgarner goes 0-2 to next three batters, then escapes when Hosmer rolls over 1st-pitch slider.
— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) October 22, 2014
I've never heard Bumgarner grunt on the mound in my life. In interviews, maybe, but only if the question was stupid.
— Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron) October 22, 2014
I predict the Royals are going to want that inning back.
— Michael Baumann (@MJ_Baumann) October 22, 2014
After Brandon Crawford booted Omar Infante's groundball and Mike Moustakas doubled into the right-field corner, it looked like the Royals would get to Bumgarner, who hadn't looked sharp through the first two innings. With Bumgarner audibly grunting (at least on the Fox TV broadcast), he struck out Alcides Escobar and then Aoki -- Escobar on a high fastball, Aoki on a curveball on which he tried to check his swing. After falling behind in the count 0-2 to load the bases, Cain worked a walk, but Hosmer swung at the first pitch and grounded out to second base to end the inning.
Hosmer has hit .280 against both lefties and righties (including the postseason), but you got the feeling Bumgarner was being careful with Cain with first base open. After four straight balls to Cain, Hosmer might have been expecting a first-pitch fastball. Instead, he got the slider. Credit Bumgarner for a good pitch there more than you blame Hosmer for not taking a strike.
"I was really impressed with the way he fought off our aggressiveness and worked up the ladder," Yost said of the fateful third.
Bumgarner was at 53 pitches after three, but you wondered at the time if the Royals had blown their one chance to get back into the game.
4. Giants flash some leather in the first inning.
— MLB Fan Cave (@MLBFanCave) October 22, 2014
Gregor Blanco to Lorenzo Cain: "Come at me, bro."
— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) October 22, 2014
Bumgarner flagged down a soft liner from Aoki, and then, at the warning track in right-center, Blanco ran down a sharp line drive off Hosmer's bat, a really nice play that he made look easy.
When I talked to Blanco on Monday, he told me how he signed with the Giants in the 2011-2012 offseason after picking them over the Reds and Marlins, and how thankful he is to be "part of the Giants family." He'd been the Giants' fourth outfielder for much of the season but was thrust into the postseason spotlight in 2012, when he replaced the suspended Melky Cabrera in left field and played outstanding defense throughout that title run. This year, he's starting in center field in place of the injured Angel Pagan. He said his dream as a kid wasn't just to play in the World Series but to play center field in the World Series. So he gets to do that and makes a great play in the first inning. How cool is that?
5. Shields knocked out in the fourth.
James Shields: 3rd WS Gm 1 starter to allow 5+ ER and 7+ hits in 3 IP or fewer (Woody Williams - 2004, Hal Newhouser - 1945)
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 22, 2014
James Shields failed to reitre a batter in 4th for 1st time in last 274 starts, including post-season. Worked 1 inning 9-28-08 start vs. Det
— Tracy Ringolsby (@TracyRingolsby) October 22, 2014
So here's the question: do you pull Duffy now, after 3 innings and 50 pitches, so he might be rested enough to relieve in Game 3?
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 22, 2014
After four straight rocky starts in the postseason, the big question looming for a potential Game 5: Does Shields even get the start? It appeared to be a legitimate question after Danny Duffy came on and tossed three hitless innings. That said, he did walk two of the first three batters he faced, the second with the bases loaded to give the Giants a 5-0 lead.
It seems unlikely you'd go away from Shields and his role as the Royals' staff leader, but his recent track record -- if you want to emphasize such a thing -- suggests he's perhaps hit the wall after a heavy workload all season. Yost confirmed after the game that Shields would start Game 5. There was no hesitation in his answer.
"He's very competitive," Yost said. "He's a guy who, when his stuff is right, he can dominate. ... You have to know James. He has the ability to make adjustments."
Anyway, Duffy proceeded to allow two more runs in the seventh inning, as Joe Panik tripled past a diving Aoki in right-center. Duffy finished with 59 pitches, which means the Royals will be without a long man for Game 2. It's probably not a big deal, but it could potentially lead to a situation in which Yost has to leave Yordano Ventura in too long, when he should go to his pen early, even if it's using one of his late-game relievers.