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Madison Bumgarner is a legend, Giants one win away from World Series win

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The Giants are a win away from trolling the world.

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I watch baseball because it isn't real life. It's a proxy for real world hopes and fears, failure and success -- all the good stuff and all the bad stuff, but with the ability to make the good things the best things in the entire world at the same time the bad things are possible to shake off. Baseball is a refuge, it's the meaning of life, it's meaningless. I feel more comfortable not understanding baseball than not understanding the other 21 hours of my day, so baseball sticks around and pretends to mean something at the same time it means something.

I didn't know Oscar Taveras or his friend Edilia Arvelo. But I know that they were young kids, and I've spent the last few hours thinking about them and their families, while at the same time fully aware that in a few hours or days, I'll have the luxury of not thinking about them. My grief feels real, but it feels cheap, just as it always does in these situations, even if it can't be helped.

All I know is that in a sea of Giants-won-the-pennant pictures, with grown men spraying each other with carbonated beverages and acting like buffoons, Taveras walked off the field and did this:

taveras


That was his instinct as he left the field, season over. He was one of my favorites before he was in the majors, and he was one of my favorites after seeing that picture. I looked forward to cursing his name for a decade in that best, painful, begrudging Jeff Bagwell kind of way.

I don't understand this place.

Rest in peace, Oscar and Edilia, and best wishes to everyone who needs best wishes right now.

★★★

Exactly. But what are we supposed to do? That's not an appeal to the obvious -- I really don't know. I don't understand.

★★★

The 2010 postseason introduced the world to a burgeoning star. Or, possibly, a rookie who would be forgotten just as quickly as he arrived. That happens too often. But back then, the Giants could roll with aces stacked atop aces. The Giants had eight starts of seven innings or more in that postseason, more than every other team in the 2014 season combined to this point. Considering that it's almost 1968 with the run-scoring environment now, that defies belief.

The 2012 postseason was a little different. Cain was still there and Bumgarner was a known quantity. One of the aces was gone, though. There was a little wear on the corners of the 2012 team card. No creases, but maybe the picture was a little off-center. People pay attention to that, you know.

The 2014 postseason is Madison Bumgarner carrying the entire team on his back, a strange mix of Sandy Koufax and Hodor. Without Bumgarner the Giants aren't in the playoffs, of course, but without him pitching as well as he possibly can, the Giants are cheering the Pirates on right now. The Cardinals made it back to the playoffs three straight seasons after losing Albert Pujols, so it's easy to overstate the importance of a single player on a 25-man roster. Try to do it with Bumgarner. Like, as a thought exercise. Picture the Giants winning anything in any of the last three postseasons without him.

When the Giants got to the last two World Series, they had to face two invincible postseason demon-men. Cliff Lee was forcing Fox to dredge up Bob Gibson stats. Justin Verlander basically came out to Apollo Creed's entrance music, even if he didn't ask for it. Yet it was Bumgarner who was the real World Series poltergeist, the guy that was supposed to scare away the other teams. The call is coming from inside the house! We've traced the call, and it's coming from inside the house! The house is sponsored by AT&T! Would you like 30 GB of ... hello?

Madison Bumgarner has thrown 31 innings in his World Series career. He's allowed a run. The Giants have won all four of his World Series starts, and his worst postseason start this year was an eight-inning, three-run performance against the Cardinals, a game which the Giants won.

Is he real? Seems real. There are pictures of him in the SB Nation photo tool and everything. I was so giddy about Beau Mills starting at first base for the next decade. Was planning to call him "Beau Millions," which is something I never admitted to anyone until now. Ol' Beau Millions, driving in runs and winning games. Hey, there, champ. Would have been happy if that led to just one championship.

And yet I'll be distraught if Bumgarner somehow doesn't lead to three before he's 26 years old. Weird game, this. We spend all this time talking about baseball being weird, baseball being drunk, baseball being the thing that happens when you're predicting baseball. Yet sometimes, it works out exactly like it's supposed to. There were people tonight who were so sure that Bumgarner was going to win because he's the ace and aces win baseball games because they're aces. It seems foolish and ridiculous to those of us who spend 300 or 400 hours watching round bats hit round balls every year, but other people were totally convinced that the Giants had this because Bumgarner was pitching, and nothing was going to convince them otherwise.

They were right. Sometimes baseball works out like it's supposed to. Bumgarner pitched like he was flawless. His command -- 260+ innings into the season, mind you -- was there, and his stuff was otherworldly. We're almost five years removed from the mysterious velocity-drop of doom. Now he's keeping that velocity deep into the World Series. For the third time in five years.

Madison Bumgarner's World Series ERA in four starts: 0.29.

It's impossible to fathom. We're so damned lucky to have watched Bumgarner over the last few seasons, and especially this entire postseason, regardless of what happens in the next two games. He was drafted out of high school from North Carolina, and he grew his hair long and dedicated his life to making a bunch of weirdos on the other side of the country happy. It's working out for everyone. It's working out for everyone just fine, thanks.

★★★

I just checked Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, and it appears as if this is the only World Series game in history in which every run batted in came from either Brandon Crawford or Juan Perez. I have a few emails out, hoping to confirm.

★★★

84 strikes. 33 balls. You'll find a lot of pitchers who have thrown more strikes in postseason history (at least the eras in which they paid attention to this stuff), but you'll rarely find this sort of economy. Four runners reached base against Bumgarner, all hits. Of the 31 hitters Bumgarner faced, 24 of them were down 0-1 before the second pitch. That's not an anomalous ratio for a shutout, but it still gives an idea of just how well Bumgarner was pitching.

★★★

Madison Bumgarner threw a shutout to put the Giants a win from a World Series championship. Seems like that's an underrated part of this whole thing.

★★★

With the score 0-0 in the bottom of the second, with a runner on first base, Brandon Belt laid down a bunt.


It was the bunt I've been begging for all postseason. Shifts are all the rage, but Belt isn't Barry Bonds, circa 2001. His stats go up, up, up if he bunts for a single three out of every four times the other team just gives him the hit. It's not like you have to weigh those singles against the 73 home runs he's going to hit and see what the cost-benefit analysis is. Free first-and-second-with-no-outs? Take it. Take it every danged time.

Belt took it, and it led to the only run the Giants would need. I think. I mean, if Bumgarner were out there with a 1-0 lead, I think I'd still be chewing on the sofa. But in theory, that was the only run the Giants needed. And it started with a genius bunt.

★★★

I'm so glad that MLB is making these videos embeddable. It would be hard to put these two plays into words.


It's 1-0 at this point. We've seen Bumgarner get cained out there after a sixth- or seventh-inning mistake. We've seen him lose his command in the fifth after looking like a demigod for four innings. He's mortal. He's a pitcher. Pitchers kind of have a bunk job, and stuff happens.

Stuff happens if a third baseman can't make that play. You wouldn't even blame the third baseman, either. Tough hop. Happens. Then the inning bleeds out and the game is lost.

The next play -- the next danged play -- Belt did this:


Oh, how I love that angle. It's a good time to be a baseball fan. Belt is not quite, but almost, a second baseman on that play. I mean, they have a book on Salvador Perez. He isn't one to poke the ball down the first-base line. When Belt fields the ball, he's quite literally halfway between first and second.

belt


That's goofy. Behind the header is Joe Panik, perfectly willing to scoop the grounder and throw to Belt at first, if that were a thing that existed. The narrative would have been about Belt overstepping his natural boundaries or Bumgarner having a split-second brain fart before he bolted to first. Instead, Belt ran like a mad man, sliding into first. I honestly don't remember a first baseman sliding into first before. Like, ever. I mean, I'm thousands and thousands of baseball games into this, so forgive me if I forget a few, but I don't remember one.

There have been two this World Series. Baseball, man.

★★★

I have an idea of what the Royals fans feel like right now. They're upset. Then tomorrow, during the off day, they'll stew in that upset, wondering why it was so important to use a mostly ineffective Kelvin Herrera for two innings if possible, and then guarantee that ... Mayrk Nix or Stayn Nix or I don't know ... is guaranteed an at-bat. They'll be despondent, inconsolable, hoping for the best but secretly fearing the worst.

Then the game will start.

Maybe the Giants take an early lead, maybe they don't. Maybe the Royals take an early lead. The crowd will be nuts. The crowd will be nuts.

This isn't over. The last time the Royals were down 3-2 in a World Series, they stunned the world. The last time the Giants were up 3-2 in a World Series, they ... found a secret doorway that led them into Fillory! Oh, how they were kings in Fillory. Should have seen it. Literally magical. Literally magical.

But I'd rather need one win for a championship than two wins. One more win, you bozos. One more win.

I hope the Padres aren't starting Odrisamer Despaigne.