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World Series Game 5: The Madison Bumgarner/Oscar Taveras game

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Madison Bumgarner wrote his name in the history books, but a tragic loss of a young prospect and his girlfriend cast a shadow over all. The game went on because it had to, simultaneously meaningless contest and meaningful tribute.

Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 MLB Bracket

In any examination of Lou Gehrig, it is observed that this quiet man never got his full due, both because he was overshadowed by more magnetic teammates (first Babe Ruth, then Joe DiMaggio, with only a one-year interregnum separating the departure and arrival of the two) and by unfortunate timing: On the same day Gehrig had his four-home-run game against the Philadelphia A's in 1932 -- nearly a five-home-run game but for Al Simmons pulling a ball back over the wall - Giants manager John McGraw, a fixture in the game for over 40 years, announced his retirement. Given that, the newspapers didn't pay a ton of attention to Gehrig.

In his brief career, Madison Bumgarner has established himself as an excellent pitcher in the regular season who has, to this point in his career, been able to find another gear and work at an even higher level in the postseason. Certainly he did that on Sunday evening as he and the Giants beat the Royals 5-0 to take a 3-2 lead in the World Series. He pitched a complete game shutout, a rarity in World Series play these days, and lowered his career ERA in the Fall Classic to 0.29. He's in Christy Mathewson territory, only without Christy's advantages -- a dead ball, integrated, international opponents.

Yet, all of that seemed strongly beside the point, for inasmuch as Bumgarner gilded his own legend this evening, the fifth game of the 2014 World Series will always be the one played the night that young Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and his still younger girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, died in a car accident. That fact makes the use of the word "brief" in the paragraph above this one inappropriate, makes the forced insouciance of the between-innings promos for Fox's postgame coverage by leering, garishly coiffed bro-droids feel out of step with the mood of the day, and numbed the senses so that the game's many exciting moments seemed distant, fleeting, of no great import.

Some of the players felt the same way:

I usually don't use the word "I" in these postgame stories, but full disclosure seems to require that this time I must, if only to confess to you that though I watched every pitch of the game, I did not see much of it. I observed but did not witness, because I was preoccupied with the loss of this very promising young player, about all the unknowns regarding his future that will never be resolved, how there but for the grace of God, go us all, and how the woman with him will be an afterthought for most observers but was a real person with her own aspirations and should not merely be reduced to having been an appendage to a ballplayer.

And so my heart wasn't really in this one, as terrific as Bumgarner was. That's a shame because, first of all, we don't get to see this sort of sustained excellence in the postseason all that often. More importantly, everything gets circular and confusing at times of tragedy, so it's easy to forget that Oscar Taveras was born and died in the Dominican Republic. We here in the United States only got a chance to know him or know of him because of the game of baseball, that the continuance of the game of baseball will keep his memory alive, as it does Gehrig's or Thurman Munson's or, for that matter, every player who ever recorded a plate appearance or pitched to a batter in the majors, the minors, the Negro Leagues, and so on. World Series Game 5 was surely diminished by his passing, but it was also a fitting memorial.

Case in point. Early on, Fox's Erin Andrews tweeted:

In the bottom of the eighth, it would be Juan Perez's near home-run/two-run double off of Wade Davis that scored two runners left on base by a seemingly fatigued Kelvin Herrera. We mourn, the game goes on. It's cold. It's a tribute. It's a form of immortality.

And so to the rest of the game, as we always must: Bumgarner was masterful. In four career World Series starts he is now 4-0 with just 12 hits and one run allowed in 31 innings pitched. Here is Billy Butler after Bumgarner froze him on a two-strike curve:

Billy Butler
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

There are other things, balls that Alcides Escobar seemingly should have gotten but didn't, another circular question -- are the Giants really this good or the Royals hitters just as bad as they seemed for most of the 2014 regular season? What was Ned Yost hoping to accomplish through his various double-switches? Has his vaunted bullpen finally broken from the relentlessness of the postseason?

The Royals now get a much-needed travel day with which to collect themselves, rest their tired arms, and try to sweep what boils down to a two-game series at home. They have a good chance. Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson haven't been at their best in this round, whereas Bumgarner is done as a starting pitcher for 2014, 22 wins in the book. The Royals' two wins in this Series came in Yordano Ventura/Jake Peavy and Jeremy Guthrie/Tim Hudson games. There is nothing predictive about that, nothing at all, but they are very much alive, if also in deep trouble.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these two teams is how strong they are in spite of relatively indifferent regular seasons, and yet how transiently they are constructed. There are no proto-dynasties battling it out here, except perhaps in the sense that the Giants are so well run that they find themselves pointed at the World Series on a regular basis. This is perhaps more a thought for the offseason, but these two teams will not be back here a year from now, at least, not as presently constructed. This World Series is very much a one-time thing. Let us hope it goes the full seven, if only because these fragile butterflies of bullpen and Bumgarner and other assorted parts deserve to live for as long as they can ...

... Not unlike a young couple who died to soon, tonight in the Dominican Republic. More on the World Series in the hours and days to come. More on Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo forever. That is baseball.