So this is it. Baseball gets a game seven, do-or-die, one-game title fight to settle it all. It’s been a fantastic postseason so far, and in nine innings or so, we’ll know which team will add another trophy to its mantle.
The Royals served notice to the Giants last night that they are in this to win. And, by virtue of what may have been a grooved pitch by Adam Wainwright to Derek Jeter in the All-Star game last July, tonight’s game will be played in front of a sea of Royals blue. Home field means everything in a game like this, and most Giants fans can only watch the game from the comfort of their own homes.
But the Giants have the ultimate equalizer on their side. If you’ve been paying attention to this postseason at all, you know that his name is Bumgarner. Madison Bumgarner. With him on their side, the Giants should have their champagne goggles ready at the end of tonight’s game.
It’s been said countless times already, but pitching wins championships. If slugging home runs was all that matters, tonight’s game would include anyone but the Royals, who were the only team in the majors without at least 100 home runs in the regular season. But the Orioles, who hit more than twice as many dingers as the Royals did, will be on their couches with the rest of us tonight.
The Royals have been a phenomenal story this season. And they’re a single win away from being the most unexpected champion of my lifetime. The part of me that loves an underdog and a good story line is pulling for the Royals in a big way tonight. But having said that, the Royals are going to have to do something nobody else has done this postseason, and that’s getting the best of Bumgarner. And it shouldn’t be a question of if we’ll see him pitch, but whether or not he will start the game.
Short rest is short rest for a reason. Pitchers get into a rhythm over the course of a season, and they give their arms a chance to recover a little bit before taking the mound again. There’s no doubt that using a pitcher on short rest carries a risk. But there’s a long offseason ahead, and Madison Bumgarner has stated that he wants the ball with the title on the line. He’s earned the start, in my mind, and we’ll soon see if Bruce Bochy agrees with that or not.
Maybe the plan for game seven is to let Tim Hudson go as far as he can, and then bring in Madison Bumgarner from the bullpen. It worked with Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks back in 2001. The day after Johnson started game six against the Yankees, he recorded the final four Yankees outs and picked up the win in game seven. And Johnson was 37 at the time, while Bumgarner is only 25. Time is most definitely on his side.
To shift gears for a moment, whenever the Bulls of the 1990s were up against it, they gave Michael Jordan the ball. Basketball, like baseball, is a team sport, but the transcendent players are the ones that you can turn to when the chips are down. Tonight we might see if the Legend of MadBum can get any bigger than it already is. I wouldn’t bet against him, that’s for sure.