For the third time in five years, the San Francisco Giants are the kings of Major League Baseball.
Madison Bumgarner threw five scoreless innings of relief, propelling Bruce Bochy's squad to an instant-classic, 3-2, Game 7 win over the Kansas City Royals to capture the 2014 World Series.
En route to securing his third championship ring, the 25-year-old Bumgarner finished the historic Fall Classic with two of the Giants' four wins, one save, one earned run in 21 innings and, unsurprisingly, the MVP award:
Hunter Pence, who very easily could have won MVP with his numbers in any other year, put it best, via Fox Sports:
In the batter's box, Mike Morse had a pair of RBI, while Pablo Sandoval—in what could have been his Giants swan song—went 3-for-3, making postseason history in the process, per ESPN Stats & Info:
With no room for error, neither manager was afraid to use the early hook, as noted by Fox Sports:
Jeremy Guthrie appeared to settle down after giving up the first two runs—a pair of sacrifice flies to Morse and Brandon Crawford—in the second, but he ran into trouble again in the fourth.
Singles from Sandoval and Hunter Pence forced Ned Yost to hand the ball over to fireballer Kelvin Herrera, who allowed a broken-bat RBI single to Morse.
The run was charged to Guthrie, who finished with a final line of 3.1 innings, four hits, three runs and three strikeouts.
Giants starter Tim Hudson retired half as many batters, as he was removed after 1.2 innings of work thanks to an Alex Gordon RBI double and Omar Infante sac fly.
As Fox Sports' Jon Morosi noted, it had been over 60 years since a team in San Francisco's position came out on top:
The Giants bullpen was up to the task, though.
Pitching with a 3-2 lead, former Royal Jeremy Affeldt held down the one-run cushion by pitching 2.1 scoreless innings of relief (fueled by a pair of timely double plays started by Joe Panik at second). In paving the way for Bumgarner and his career 0.29 World Series ERA, Affeldt earned the win in Game 7.
Just three days removed from his Game 5 shutout, Bumgarner allowed a leadoff single to Infante and then proceeded to retire the next 14 batters before getting Salvador Perez to pop out to finish off the World Series.
It's a performance that immediately goes into baseball lore and will likely never be duplicated. MLB.com's Richard Justice put it simply:
Two-time All-Star Mark Mulder argued the setting made it better than Pedro Martinez's unforgettable relief appearance against the Cleveland Indians in 1999, while the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin put the performance into perspective:
But it wasn't without drama. With two outs in the ninth, Gordon singled to center and made it to third on an error by Gregor Blanco. But naturally, Bumgarner proceeded like it was the first inning of a game in April, retiring Perez for the win.
While it will take a while to shake this one off, the Royals shouldn't hang their heads. It was a magical season in which they defied expectations at every turn, and the future is undoubtedly bright.
The night, and ensuing winter, though, belongs to Bumgarner and the Giants. Again.