The Kansas City Royals came into the series on a magic carpet ride as they started the playoffs undefeated at 8-0. After a 29 years absence from the postseason since the Royals franchise won their only World Series in 1985, the Royals made up for lost time by giving their fans a lifetime of memories in these playoffs. Accordingly, they brought one of the greatest underdog and feel good stories with them into the World Series. On the other hand, the Giants came into this series trying to make even more history by winning a third World Series in the last five years. While these two unique stories could have captured the imagination of viewers, this World Series was actually the lowest rated ever after the first give games. There are many reasons why the interest in this series has been nonexistent until Game 7. First, the matchup of the Royals and Giants franchises just do not attract the interest of the markets outside of Kansas City and San Francisco. Next, there was a long layoff between the League Championship Series and the World Series after the Royals and Giants took care of the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals quickly in the previous round. With the NFL season in full swing and the NBA season about to begin, the dramatic baseball postseason lost momentum as fans might have got into the other sports and never returned to baseball. Finally, the first 6 games were just not that dramatic. Besides the one run game in Game 3, the winning team won all the other games comfortably. Consequently, five of the six games were not exciting at all. For all these reasons, the 2014 World Series was boring until Game 7.
I give credit to both teams for playing well in the series and doing what they needed when they needed to do it. The Giants won Game 1 to hand the Royals their first loss in this postseason which slowed down the momentum the Royals built up in the previous rounds. Since teams that have recently swept their way through the playoffs have not done well in the World Series, there was a real concern that the Royals would go down quickly if they lost Game 2. However, the Royals responded by winning Game 2 then won Game 3 in San Francisco to ensure that the series would at least return to Kansas City. The Giants needed to win Games 4 and 5 because the road teams have lost 9 straight game 7s in the World Series. Accordingly, it would have been extremely improbable to win Games 6 and 7 on the road. Of course, the Giants took care of business at home and took a 3-2 series lead to Kansas City. The Royals won Game 6 easy 10-0 to set up a Game 7. There were some key factors in play heading into Game 7 that could have significantly affected the outcome. First, the Royals won way too easy in Game 6. I felt the Giants could lose Game 6 but not the way they did. Because it was not close, the Royals did not have to use their best relievers. As such, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland were fully rested going into Game 7 so they could definitely go multiple innings if needed. Next, the Royals bats got red hot in Game 6 and they started to make amazing defensive plays again. That momentum had a strong chance to carry over into the beginning of Game 7. On the other hand, Madison Bumgarner continued to make World Series history. In 15 innings over the World Series in 2010 and 2012, he did not surrender a run. He finally gave up a run in the 7th inning of Game 1 of this series. He followed that great start with a shutout in Game 5. However, he would only have 2 days of rest going into Game 7 so he was ruled out of starting the game. While there was a question of how long he could pitch, he was definitely available to pitch during the game. Consequently, there was plenty of discussion on how and when to use one of the best World Series pitchers.
Jeremy Guthrie and Tim Hudson started Game 7. Both pitchers are veterans who pitch to contact. Accordingly, the general consensus was that they would not be long for the game and the bullpens would be in the game early. This notion proved to be prophetic. The Giants were able to scratch a couple of runs off Guthrie in the second inning with sac flies to take a 2-0 lead. However, the Royals were able to tie the game in the bottom of the 2nd inning and chased Hudson from the game. In the bottom of the third, Lorenzo Cain led off with a single. Next, Eric Hosmer appeared to hit a ball up the middle for single that would have set up the Royals nicely to have a big inning. With the momentum of the previous night and knocking out the Giants starter already, the Royals could have taken control of the game in this moment. However, Joe Panik made an amazing dive that started a double play to change the fate of the game. Although Hosmer was initially ruled safe, the play was reviewed via instant replay and correctly changed to a double play. In the top of the 4th inning, the Giants started a rally by getting the first two men on before Guthrie got an out. At this point, Ned Yost made the correct decision to go to one of his dominant relievers early. As such, he called on Kelvin Herrera to try to strand the runners. Although Herrera gave up the go ahead single, he was able to get out of the inning and limited the damage to one run as the Giants took a 3-2 lead. Since both teams were already into the bullpens, I assumed that both teams would scratch a couple more runs through during the rest of the game. However, Herrera pitched 2.2 innings, Wade Davis pitched 2 innings, and Greg Holland pitched an inning to keep the Giants from scoring another run. On the other hand, former Royals pitcher Jeremy Affeldt relieved Hudson and gave the Giants a key 2.1 innings of relief. Then, the Giants turned to their ace Madison Bumgarner to relieve after only 2 days of rest to bridge the game to the back of the bullpen. After Bumgarner gave up a single to the first batter he faced, he started to mow down the Royals easily and in few pitches. As such, inning after inning passed by and Bumgarner appeared to get stronger and stronger as he blanked the Royals into the 9th.
Although I could not believe what I was seeing, I still thought that the Royals were a team of destiny and had a gut feeling that they would do something magical even though Bumgarner looked unhittable. I have seen this situation before in the 2001 World Series. The New York Yankees took a one run lead late in the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks after an Alfonso Soriano go ahead homerun. The greatest closer of All-Time, Mariano Rivera, came into the game in the 8th inning and struck out the side. As such, it looked like he would easily lock down and finish up the World Series in the 9th. As we know, Mark Grace led off the 9th with a single then Rivera threw away a bunt back to him on the next batter. It started a stunning rally that eventually culminated in the Diamondbacks winning the World Series on a walkoff single by Luis Gonzalez. Accordingly, I had a thought that a similar situation could happen against Bumgarner in the 9th. Of course, I started to doubt my gut instinct when he quickly got the first two outs. However, my gut feeling crept in again when Alex Gordon singled to center and the ball got past the centerfielder and kept on rolling. As he ran around the bases, I thought the impossible would happen and he would score but he stopped at third as the ball got back in. I actually had a brief thought that the Royals should have sent Gordon towards home plate because there was a better chance the relay throw would be off line than Bumgarner giving up another hit. Nevertheless, the Royals have found incredible ways to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat this entire postseason. It appeared they had one more trick in them to win the World Series. I would not have blamed Bumgarner if he was unnerved by the turn of events. Instead, he bears down and pops Salvador Perez up to end the World Series.
Bumgarner finished the 2014 World Series surrendering only 1 run in 21 innings with 17 strikeouts compared to only 1 walk. He had 2 wins and his relief outing in Game 7 was classified as a save. He was the obvious choice for the World Series MVP. His performance was among the best of all time. Of all the World Series I have watched in my lifetime, the performance that is most comparable was Randy Johnson in 2001 against the Yankees. In 17.1 innings, he was 3-0 giving up only 2 runs with 19 strikeouts compared to 3 walks. He was dominant in his two starts in Games 2 and 6. He came into the game in relief in Game 7 on no days rest to pick up the win. Of course, Curt Schilling was nearly as dominant in that series too. He pitched on 3 days rest twice in order to pitch in three games. Over 21.1 innings, Schilling gave up only 4 runs while striking out 26 batters compared to only 2 walks. In my opinion, Bumgarner’s performance in this year’s World Series was better than Johnson or Schilling as he only surrendered 1 run and was able to pitch 5 innings of relief even though he was only on 2 days rest. We have to go way back in time to the 1965 World Series to find the most comparable performance to Bumgarner’s. Of course, I am referring to the great Sandy Koufax. In that World Series, Koufax pitched 24 innings. He was 2-1 giving up only 2 runs (1 earned) and striking out 29 batters. He started Game 7 on two days rest. His curveball was not working so he threw only fastballs and pitched a 3 hit shutout with 10 Ks. Bumgarner’s 2014 World Series was essentially the 1965 Koufax performance in our time. It exemplifies how unbelievable Bumgarner truly was in this series. In a year where Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had a regular season that reminded us of Koufax and was looking to have a “Koufaxian” postseason himself, it is ironic that a Dodgers rival was able to have a Koufax caliber postseason instead.
For the Giants, they have won 3 out of the last 5 years. Normally, I would use the word dynasty for these accomplishments. However, they have not dominated the sport despite winning the multiple championships. They have also not won back to back championships and did not even make the playoffs in the years they did not win it all. Obviously, they have played great in the playoffs when they have made it. Nevertheless, they have never been the team to beat in those years. As a result, they have not dominated in the manner I think of when I think about dynasties. Of course, it does not diminish their accomplishments one bit. On the other hand, the Royals have nothing to be ashamed of in defeat. They had an incredible postseason run and were close to winning the World Series. They simply lost to a three time champion and an All-Time great postseason performance by Bumgarner. The Royals fans showed the team the love it deserved as they chanted thanks after Game 7 despite the defeat. They have a lot of great young players. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain showed the world that they can be stars. Yordano Ventura demonstrated that he is special. He has incredible ability and throws the ball 100 MPH. He also showed mental toughness. He was put into a tough situation in the Wild Card Game when Ned Yost put him in relief and promptly served up a devastating go ahead homerun to the Oakland As. Instead of shrinking from big moments after the traumatic moment, Ventura showed resolve and pitched very well in the postseason. He capped it off by dominating in Game 6 as a tribute to his late friend, Oscar Taveras, who died in a tragic car accident in the Dominican Republic over the weekend. Of course, the Royals will have a shorter window to win than most because of their payroll constraints. They will definitely lose starter James Shields to free agency in the offseason. As such, they have difficult decisions to make but their great young core should anchor them for a couple of years. However, they also received a lot of key breaks in this postseason that may not happen for them again in the future. While they will be good, I have serious doubt