San Francisco Giants

Postgame notes: Bumgarner’s year may not be over, Belt drops a surprise

SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner had hardly put the finishing touches on his four-hit, no-walk, eight-strikeout, complete-game masterpiece Sunday night when he was asked how many pitches, realistically, he might be able to throw in Game 7 if the World Series were to get that far.

"I mean, it’s hard to say, but I’m not a big pitch count guy," Bumgarner said. "As long as you keep getting outs and you feel good, you should stay out there."

Bumgarner was out on the mound when Game 5 began Sunday and still standing when it ended, having thrown 117 pitches to twirl the first complete-game World Series shutout since Josh Beckett in 2003. It was Bumgarner’s second shutout of the postseason, and the 25-year-old lowered his career World Series ERA, in four starts, to 0.29.

The game story gets into all the particulars of a historic night for the left-hander, who has thrown 265 innings now between the regular season and the playoffs. That’s an increase of more than 60 innings from what Bumgarner threw in 2013. And yet so dominant was Bumgarner against the Royals on Sunday, and so strong did he look into the later innings, that even his manager did not say for certain that his season is done.

"He wasn’t laboring," Bruce Bochy said. "Would he be available if that situation (all hands on deck in Game 7) came up? Yeah. He’d have two days off, and he’s a strong kid.

"He’s going to make himself available, I know."

For there to be a Game 7, the Royals would have to force it, thanks to Bumgarner giving a performance for the ages in the Giants’ 5-0 win Sunday. If it was his final appearance on a mound in 2014, several teammates said, it was a fitting way to end his year.

"It’s just the way he’s been pitching," Brandon Belt said. "It’s just like, ‘It’s the same ol’ Madison, going out there and doing his thing.’"

"We’ve come to expect that out of him, performances like this," said Brandon Crawford. "I think if you looked at him in the middle of the game, you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was some game in the middle of the year or a World Series game. He’s such a great competitor. It’s fun to watch."

It was, of course, not some game in the middle of the year. This was Bumgarner pitching on the sport’s biggest stage, in a pivotal Game 5 that would determine whether the Giants would return to Kansas City needing just one win to secure their third title in five years or needing to win twice with the momentum squarely on the side of the Royals.

They’re in the former situation, the better one, after their ace almost singlehandedly put them there. He scattered four hits Sunday, didn’t allow a runner past second base, struck out eight and walked none. What made him so good this time?

"I just think he did a great job from the beginning commanding both sides of the plate," said catcher Buster Posey. "He was able to get the off-speed over for strikes early in the count, and didn’t miss on the plate very much with the fastball."

If that sounds technical, Posey added: "The numbers, they just speak for themselves."

And there were quite a few that spoke volumes. The one run allowed in 31 World Series innings; the 47 2/3 innings in these playoffs, second-most ever by a pitcher in one single postseason; the six complete games in 2014, two of them in this postseason.

And, of course, the 265 innings devoured by Bumgarner’s sturdy left arm.

"I felt great all night," Bumgarner said afterward. "Really this time of year, it’s not too hard to go out there and feel good."

Bumgarner said he normally governs his between-starts workload "by feel." He would have two days off before a potential Game 7. That would be about the time Bumgarner would throw a bullpen session. If he does throw on Wednesday, it will probably be in a higher- pressure situation.

There’s no guarantee, though, that there will be a game Wednesday, and that’s because of the most important number of all to come out of Bumgarner’s start -- the number of wins separating the Giants from a World Series championship.

One.

* This franchise knows a 3-2 lead in the World Series isn’t a sure thing. This is the third time the Giants have led 3-2 in the Series, and they didn’t close out either of the previous two, losing in seven games to the Washington Senators in 1924 and the Anaheim Angels in 2002.

Crawford wasn’t alive for the first one. He was alive, and a young Giants fan growing up in the Bay Area, for the second.

"I remember Game 6 probably the most out of all of them," he said Sunday night, of the game in which the Giants were five outs away from the title with a lead before going on to lose in seven. "I was depressed for a couple days."

Belt said the mood after taking a 3-2 lead was "excited. But honestly, right now, we can not let up at all. That’s the way I feel, and I’m sure everybody else feels like that. We’ve got to in there (to Kansas City), not give up any momentum, and take it right now."

* Belt had an adventurous game that was overshadowed -- like everything else -- by the Bumgarner outing. He helped the Giants score their first run by dropping a bunt single in the second inning that put runners on first and second with nobody out. It was Belt’s first bunt hit as a major-leaguer.

"I laid down some sac bunts in college quite a bit," Belt said. "I think I just kind of had to dig deep, go back to my college days, pull that one out."

Belt said he opted to bunt for a hit when he saw the Royals infield shifted to the right side with shortstop Alcides Escobar the lone defender remaining to the left of second base. He bunted the ball sharply, but Escobar had to charge a long way to make a barehanded play, and Belt beat the throw to first.

"It probably could’ve been better," Belt said of the placement. "I bunted it pretty hard -- right at him. I’d like to get a little more toward the line. But right now I’ll take what I can get."

Hey, it worked. And so did the feet-first slide Belt employed rushing to tag first base after he fielded Salvador Perez’s grounder to the right side in the fourth.

Belt had to go a ways to his right to field the ball, so much so that Bumgarner was caught off guard and didn’t break to cover first base. Belt said he normally tells the pitcher when he’s playing that far off the line, but didn’t tell Bumgarner that time.

"I’m sure he thought it was going to the second baseman, because he’s absolutely one of the best about getting over," Belt said. "Just a little miscommunication, but you know, people need to be picked up sometimes and fortunately I was able to do it."

Belt said his lunge for the bag was "probably one of the worst slides I’ve had."

"I barely touched (first) with the bottom of my foot," he said. "But it got the job done."

* Crawford drove in three runs to become the fourth Giants shortstop with that many RBI in a World Series game. Edgar Renteria was the last, doing it twice in 2010. His first two came on a groundout in the second inning and single to center in the fourth. Neither was particularly well-hit, but both came with two strikes and Crawford getting enough on the ball to drive the run in.

"Just put the bat on the ball," Crawford said.

Juan Perez drove in the Giants’ other two runs with a double off Wade Davis that missed being a home run by inches, bouncing off the center-field wall. It was a big moment on a tough night for Perez, who earlier learned about the death of his friend Oscar Taveras, the exciting 22-year-old outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals.

In other notes about the offense, Hunter Pence went 2-for-4 and is quietly hitting .474 (9-for-19) in the Series with six runs scored. He has reached base safely in 18 consecutive postseason games. Pablo Sandoval also went 2-for-4 with two runs scored; in 10 career World Series games, Sandoval’s batting average is .390 -- tied for seventh-best all-time among players with at least 40 at-bats.

* A few people pointed out that, aside from the historical implications, Bumgarner’s start had a practical one as well by saving the Giants’ bullpen for a night. They would’ve had a day off Monday anyway, as the teams travel to Kansas City, but with a full two days’ rest everybody should be fresh and available for Game 6.

* We’ll end with an observation by Belt, when asked if Game 5, with Bumgarner hurling the shutout and being serenaded afterward by chants of "MVP!" in the final game of the 2014 season at AT&T Park, would be a fitting way for the Bumgarner’s season to end.

"Yeah, it seems like it," Belt said. "I guess the only thing better would be if we go on and win this World Series. Obviously we want to do that anyway, but we want to do it for guys like that, who go out there and compete and give us their best every time out."

It’s Jake Peavy and Yordano Ventura in Game 6 on Tuesday. First pitch at 5:07 p.m. PT.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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