The San Francisco Giants have taken control of the 2014 World Series after a 5-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Game 5 on Sunday night. The Giants now lead the series, 3-2, and will have two chances to clinch the championship on the road at Kauffman Stadium.
Madison Bumgarner was once again the star for San Francisco on Sunday night, pitching a complete game shutout to follow up his impressive outing in Game 1. Pretty much every World Series-winning team needs an ace to carry the load and step up in crucial games -- for the Giants, that's proven to be Bumgarner once again.
The Giants lefthander allowed just four hits and zero walks to the Royals in Game 5, while adding eight strikeouts to his postseason total. He rarely got into trouble and looked in control most of the time, even in the latter innings as his pitch total climbed near (and past) 100.
Brandon Crawford opened the scoring in the second inning with an RBI groundout to score Hunter Pence, then followed that up in the fourth inning with an RBI single. Royals starter James Shields settled in from there to keep the game close, but the bullpen would stumble in the bottom of the eighth to more or less put the game away.
Juan Perez, who batted .170/.224/.270 in the regular season, hit a two-run triple in the eighth inning, then Crawford delivered his third RBI of the game to score Perez. From there, with a five-run lead, the Giants were in command, and Bumgarner finished the shutout to the cheers of an excited Bay Area crowd.
It was an exciting night for the Giants and Perez, but also a difficult one. Before the incredible hit that's surely the highlight of his career thus far, Perez could be seen in the dugout crying after word of Oscar Taveras' death reached the team midway through the game.
The series now heads back to Kansas City for Game 6 on Tuesday night. Jake Peavy and Yordano Ventura are pegged to start.
Bumgarner, nearing legend status?
It's easy to forget now, but there was a time when Bumgarner wasn't a postseason pitching monster. Before his shutout performance against the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, he delivered a pair of clunkers as his teammates withstood the struggles and kept winning anyways.
This postseason has been different, obviously, because Bumgarner has never faltered. Including his latest masterpiece on Sunday night against Kansas City, the lefthander has now pitched six straight quality outings in the 2014 playoffs for San Francisco, cementing his status as one of the premier pitchers in the game.
And when focusing on the World Series, where Bumgarner has now made four career starts, the numbers are even crazier: 4-0, 0.29 ERA, 27 strikeouts, five walks. We're talking one run allowed in 31 innings on the biggest stage possible. If Bumgarner isn't bordering on postseason legend status soon, I don't know how much else it will take.
The indefensible double switch
Royals manager Ned Yost has made a number of divisive decisions in leading the Royals to a AL pennant, but the double switch that replaced Omar Infante with Jayson Nix was as dumbfounding as they come. Yost seemingly made the move in order to keep Kelvin Herrera in for a second inning of work, but quickly pulled the pitcher once he got into a jam to go with Wade Davis.
Davis promptly gave up three runs and basically put the game away, while the entire Internet openly wondered why Yost would maneuver to give Nix, a pretty terrible hitter, a pivotal at-bat late in a World Series game. It hardly mattered in the end once the lead was extended to five runs, but there will surely be some second guessing around Kansas City after this one.
Too much bullpen for KC
It's not that the Royals are necessarily using their relief pitchers too much -- it's just that the team could really, really use a dominant effort from one of its starters. Shields went six innings for KC on Sunday night, and that represented the longest outing by a Royals starter in this series. What's become clear, in other words, is that Kansas City just doesn't have a high-level starting pitcher to match Bumgarner. As solid as guys like Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Ventura have been, it's a different ballgame when you can depend on a guy for seven-plus strong innings every time he's out there, even in the playoffs. In this series, that's Bumgarner and only Bumgarner.
The Giants are in the driver's seat
The series is obviously far from done, especially with Kauffman Stadium hosting the remaining games, but the odds don't stand in Kansas City's favor. There have been 60 instances of a team leading 3-2 in World Series history, and more than 68 percent of the time, that team has eventually won. Obviously those numbers ignore the current context of the matchup between the Giants and Royals, but it should give you an idea of the strong position San Francisco is now in.