UNBELIEVABLE ENDING TO IMPROBABLE SERIES MATCHUP

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What else can you say after a baseball season that ended like that. Forget the fact that the best teams in baseball either didn’t make it to the playoffs or were eliminated in the first round.

That’s the lead for a column I wrote after the World Series of 2011 when the Wild Card St. Louis Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the World Series. I thought that that post season had had it all and would be a hard act to follow.

Who could have imagined two teams that had barely made it into the Playoffs as Wild Cards would meet in Game 7 this year? Who could have predicted that the Kansas City Royals who were down 7-3 going to the last of the eighth in the Wild Card Game against the Oakland Athletics would tie the game in the last of the ninth, give up a run in the top of the twelfth and come back with two in the bottom to win 8-7 and get into the Playoffs?

Who would have believed that that same Royals team, which had not been in the World Series since 1985, would sweep the mighty Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS and then do the same to the powerful Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS?

On the other hand, would anyone have foretold that the Giants, after beating the Pittsburgh Pirates easily in the Wild Card Game to make the playoffs, would make short work of the Western Division winner Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and Central Division winner St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS? Remember the Giants finished with an 88-74 record, six games behind those same Dodgers with their outrageous payroll.

Well, as I guess you now know, they did! Not only did they make the World Series, they split the first six games and gave us what every baseball fan dreams of, a nailbiter of a seventh game of the World Series.

Kansas City had the home field advantage because the American League had won the field trip/picnic/photo op that they call the All Star Game in July. The old system of alternating the home field advantage between leagues made more sense and was fairer but maybe, with Bud Sellig gone now, some degree of sanity can be restored to the game.

The Royals proceeded to lose that advantage by dropping Game 1 to the Giants 7-1 as Madison Bumgarner shut them down with one run for seven innings before being relieved. Pulling Bumgarner early in this game may have been the smartest thing Bruce Bochy did in the series as he would come back to pitch a complete game shutout in Game 5 and have enough left to save Game 7 by pitching five innings of scoreless relief.

After losing Game 1 at home, the Royals managed a split by winning Game 2 and then went to San Francisco and took the home field advantage back by beating the Giants 3-2 in Game 3. The Giant bats finally came to life in Game 4 and they tied the series at 2-2 with an 11-4 win. With it all tied, the Royals had the advantage needing two to win it all and having two of the remaining three games at home.

Madison Bumgarner put the Giants up three games to two with a complete game, shutout, winning 5-0, in Game 5. The series then went back to Kansas City with the Royals needing two wins at home and the Giants needing just one on the road. The Royals blasted the Giants 10-0 in Game 6 to set the stage for Game 7.

Game 7 started with 39 year old Tim Hudson on the mound for the Giants and 35 year old Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals. The two combined for the highest age ever for the starting pitchers in a Game 7. Neither was around long. Hudson lasted just 1 2/3 innings and Guthrie 3 1/3 but the game was still close, 3-2 Giants after four innings.

There had been talk that Bochy might bring Bumgarner back to start Game 7 but he elected to hold him off until he needed him. Bochy called on him to come in in relief in the bottom of the fifth with the score still 3-2. All he did, on two days rest, after winning Games 1 and 5, was pitch five scoreless innings, giving up just two hits to clinch the series for his Giants.

Bumgarner, who else, was awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy although in another year either Hunter Pence or Pablo Sandoval, whose value as a Free Agent probably doubled after his play in the entire playoffs, could have won the MVP.

There were so many spectacular plays in the field during this series that it would take another column to mention them all but the biggest of them all was in the third inning of Game 7 when, with the score 2-2, the Royals batting, no outs and Lorenzo Cain, who had singled, on first, Eric Hosmer hit a hard ground ball to the right field side of second. The Giants rookie second baseman, Joe Panik dove to his right, stabbed the ball and, using his glove hand while on his stomach, flipped the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford who stepped on second and threw to first to get Hosmer for the double play.

If the ball had gone through, the Royals would have had men on first and third with no outs and Bill Butler, the designated hitter, up. This play made Bumgarner’s sensational performance possible as it kept the score tied until DH Mike Morse singled to put the Giants up 3-2 in the top of the fourth and set the stage for his entrance.

There have been many exciting World Series game but this Game 7 has to be one of the best in a series that kept America on the edge of its seat. It’s okay to start the football season now.

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