World Series Game 4: Madison Bumgarner's Gem Puts Giants in Driver's Seat
The conversations about whether or not Cliff Lee should have pitched Game 4 can now be ended. There was no one that could have beaten Madison Bumgarner on Halloween.
A team that had only been shut out once at its home park and had the highest batting average of any major league team during the regular season had no answer for the dominance of the young southpaw.
Although Bumgarner's effort is and should be the story of the night, the end result is that the Giants have taken a 3-1 stranglehold on this World Series. The Rangers failed to win a game in San Francisco and therefore had backed themselves into a situation where a home sweep was all but necessary to stay in this World Series.
Going to San Francisco up 3-2 would be more than manageable, but going into an elimination game while still at home was the last thing the Rangers wanted to face.
The Giants, however, must be doing a little jig in the clubhouse. There is work to be done, but the game today made the future brighter.
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I have decided to start with the weakest of the elements to offer, and that just goes to show how thorough and dominant the effort was from the Giants as a whole.
As far as the offense is concerned, the base of the success stemmed from the number of pitches they were garnering from starting pitcher Tommy Hunter. By the time they drew blood in the third inning, they has already made him throw 46 pitches through two innings.
Although Freddy Sanchez failed to move Andres Torres over after a leadoff double, he still battled through a nine-pitch at-bat, which led to a first pitch mistake from Hunter to Aubrey Huff that ended up in the right field bleachers for a 2-0 lead.
They kicked Hunter out of the game before he reached the fifth inning and were able to scratch out two more runs from a beaten-up Rangers bullpen, building a 4-0 lead that was more than enough for Madison Bumgarner.
The offense, which has been much maligned throughout the season and the postseason, has continued to perform at a very high level and is looking like a strength more than a weakness.
Besides a meaningless error from Juan Uribe in the seventh inning, the Giants defense was solid all around.
The range in the outfield by Cody Ross and Nate Schierholtz made the outfield look as big as a football field to Rangers hitters, and the sure hands and range of all the infielders turned ground balls into sure outs and double plays.
Freddy Sanchez was everywhere, showing incredible range, quick change in direction and good turns at second base, and he even made a solid pick to catch Josh Hamilton stealing second. Edgar Renteria showed the range and hands that made him a perennial All-Star shortstop, and Uribe showed the hands of a shortstop and the arm of a right fielder.
Travis Ishikawa at first base saved several throw-aways and stretched out on double plays that made him look like an Olympic gymnast. All the routine plays were made with ease, and several tough plays were made in support of the stellar Bumgarner outing.
The changes made by Bruce Bochy to shore up the defense came through, and solid defense was an integral part of the dominant showing of the Giants today.
For all of the agony that Bruce Bochy brought Giants fans during the regular season, he is making up for it with stellar postseason managing. His decision to bench Pat Burrell might have been a game overdue, but it shored up the defense and did not damage the offense in the slightest.
With Cody Ross in left and Nate Schierholtz in right, the range of the Giants outfield might be unmatched, especially with the anchor, Andres Torres, in center field.
The decision to DH Aubrey Huff might have been obvious, but also smart, as it allowed for the defensively sound Travis Ishikawa to play the field and a DH who has experience at the DH position in the past.
Similarly, neither Schierholtz nor Ishikawa had a good offensive game, but they did have good at-bats; Ishikawa drew a walk, and Schierholtz was a diving Josh Hamilton away from putting the Giants on the board first.
As far as the pitching was concerned from a fan's standpoint, Madison should have been given the chance to finish that game, but it was a sound managerial decision to bring in the All-Star closer Brian Wilson to close out the game, even if it was not a save situation.
Bochy has not done anything extraordinary during this postseason, but he has made all the solid moves and pulled all the obvious, yet right strings to help propel the Giants to within a win of the World Series title.
Starting Pitching: A+
What a studly, manly, ballsy, macho, dominant, focused, overwhelming, superior, assertive and almost transcendent outing by the 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner, who just achieved what only one other pitcher accomplished all year: He shut out the Texas Rangers at home.
In the process, he became the fourth youngest pitcher to ever win a postseason game.
He was throwing everything that he had in his arsenal effectively. He was hitting his spots, mixing his pitches and most of all was confident in everything he was throwing. He was fearless with the baseball, not backing down from any hitter in any count.
His presence on the mound was that of a veteran Cy Young Award winner, not that of a 21-year-old rookie making only his third postseason start. He faced the best offense baseball had to offer in terms of team average and run-scoring ability, in their home stadium, and utterly shut them down.
Only one Ranger reached second base the entire night, and that was on an error with two outs. The heart of the Rangers' order, hitters two through six, or Michael Young through Ian Kinsler, hit 2-for-14 against the kid with six strikeouts.
The Rangers have now been shut out twice in this series by Giants pitching, where they had only been shut out five times during the regular season. The true strength of this Giants team has shown up in force this postseason and during the majority of this World Series. One more start like this and the champagne will flow and the rings will be ordered. Let's just hope it holds up.
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What a great overall performance by this scrappy Giants squad of self-identified misfits. Throughout this series, it has been quite obvious who the better team has been, in every aspect of the game. Pitching, both starting and bullpen, offense and defense have been superior to the Rangers.
At the same time, they have not been flashy, but sound, focused and tough, showing the poise of a regular champion.
The games have been dominant to the point where Giants fans, me included, are sitting back in almost a stunned matter, wondering what the heck is going on.
The whole year has been played under the motto of "Torture"—one-run, sweat 'em out, scrappy, nail-biting, stress-filled games that have had the Giants team and their fans sitting on their edge of their seats until the very last pitch. Afterwards, blood pressure needs to be checked, grey hairs are popping up and spa retreats need to be taken.
However, this World Series has included no torture—neither hair-pulling nor puke-inducing games. There have been no one-run nail-biters, there have been no 3-2 counts in the bottom of the ninth to Ryan Howard and there has been no screaming at the TV. All of the Giants wins have been convincing—11-7, 9-0, 4-0—and have seemed more like relaxing movies more than gladiator battles.
Not that I, nor the rest of the Giants fan population, am complaining; we needed this, in every sense of the word. Now, there is still another game that needs to be won, and work to be done, but it looks good on the horizon, and the Giants are within one win of the prize that they have tried so hard to gain since moving out West.
Let's go Giants; bring it home.