Where Madison Bumgarner's Game 7 Ranks Among All-Time World Series Performances
The San Francisco Giants are officially 2014 World Series champions after a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 on Friday night.
One of the biggest storylines heading into the game was whether or not Madison Bumgarner would make his way into the game for the Giants on two-days rest.
He did that and then some, throwing five shutout innings to earn the save and cap off one of the greatest postseason runs in baseball history.
His final October line: 7 G, 6 GS, 4-1, SV, 1.03 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 6 BB, 45 K, 52.2 IP
That earned the 25-year-old National League Championship Series MVP, World Series MVP and his third World Series ring.
Focusing specifically on his Game 7 performance, though, let's take a look at where it ranks among the 10 greatest single-game performances in World Series history.
Overall dominance of the performance, what game of the series it happened in as well as extra circumstances such as the two-days rest Bumgarner was pitching on were all considered when hatching out these rankings.
10. Albert Pujols: 2011 World Series, Game 3
5-for-6, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R
A three-homer game is a rare occurrence in the World Series, happening just five times. A five-hit game is even rarer, with a grand total of two of those in the history of the Fall Classic.
Albert Pujols owns a place on both of those short lists, thanks to his performance in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. He was dialed in against Texas Rangers pitching that night.
His game actually started with a groundout in the first inning, before he singled in the fourth and fifth and then homered in the sixth, seventh and ninth on the way to a 16-7 Cardinals victory.
The crazy thing is, that wasn't even the best single-game performance by a Cardinals player in that series. More on that in a minute, though.
9. Bob Gibson: 1968 World Series, Game 1
9.0 IP, W, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 17 K
A total of 49 times during the regular season has a pitcher struck out 17 or more hitters in a game. It's only happened once in the postseason, though, and that was Bob Gibson in Game 1 of the 1968 series.
Gibson put together what some consider the greatest pitching season of all time during the regular season when he went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA and 268 strikeouts, and he didn't miss a beat when the World Series kicked off.
The right-hander struck out each Detroit Tigers starter at least once in the game and allowed just five hits on his way to one of the most dominant starts in postseason history.
Gibson picked up the win in Game 4 of the series as well but was outdueled by Mickey Lolich in Game 7.
8. Babe Ruth: 1916 World Series, Game 2
14.0 IP, W, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
It may come as a surprise that Babe Ruth the hitter does not appear anywhere on this list, though he likely would if it were padded out to more than 10 as he has a pair of three-homer games in the World Series to his credit.
However, he does earn a spot from his days as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox when he came out on top in one of the greatest pitcher's duels in baseball history.
The Red Sox squeaked out a 2-1 victory in 14 innings over the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series, and both starters ended up going the distance.
Ruth actually got off to a rocky start, allowing an inside-the-park home run to Hi Myers in the top of the first inning. He would shut them down over the next 13 innings, though, on his way to the victory.
It was actually Ruth who tied the game with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the third, and things remained scoreless from there until the Red Sox finally pushed across a run in the bottom of the 14th on a pinch-hit RBI single from Del Gainer.
7. Reggie Jackson: 1977 World Series, Game 6
3-for-3, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 1 BB
The 1977 World Series was when Reggie Jackson officially earned his "Mr. October" nickname, and his three-homer performance in Game 6 was the icing on the cake.
There have only been five three-homer games in World Series history, but Jackson's came when the stakes were highest, as he helped the Yankees close out what had been a tight series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers avoided elimination at home with a 10-4 win in Game 5, and that allowed Jackson to achieve his legendary heroics in front of the Yankee Stadium crowd when the series shifted back to New York for the final two games.
Jackson took home World Series MVP honors, finishing the series 9-for-20 with five home runs, eight RBI and 10 runs scored.
6. Pete Alexander: 1926 World Series, Game 7
2.1 IP, SV, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Perhaps the closest thing we have ever seen to what Bumgarner did on Wednesday night was accomplished by Hall of Famer Pete Alexander while he was pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1926.
Already 39 years old at the time, Alexander picked up the complete-game victory in Game 2 and Game 6 of the team's series against the high-powered New York Yankees.
Jesse Haines started Game 7 for the Cardinals, allowing eight hits and two earned runs, but he ran into trouble in the seventh.
With the bases loaded and two out, and the Cardinals clinging to a 3-2 lead, manager Rogers Hornsby called on Alexander on no rest to close out the game.
He struck out Tony Lazzeri to end the threat and then threw two shutout innings to slam the door. The only baserunner he allowed was Babe Ruth, who was caught stealing second with two outs in the ninth to end the game.
5. Madison Bumgarner: 2014 World Series, Game 7
5.0 IP, SV, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
The fact that Pete Alexander pitched on no rest would appear to make his Game 7 save more impressive, but that was a different time. In fact, that was not the first time that season Alexander had pitched in back-to-back games.
In an age when pitch counts are closely monitored, pitchers are shut down at the end of the season with an innings limit and managers are quick to go to their bullpen, Bumgarner gave the Giants a horse they could ride all postseason.
Bumgarner was making his first relief appearance since the 2010 NLCS, when he was a 21-year-old just starting to make a name for himself.
After allowing a leadoff single in the fifth, he settled in and absolutely dominated the rest of the way, to the point that there was never a question manager Bruce Bochy would run him out for the ninth inning.
What we just witnessed was not only one of the greatest single-game performances in baseball history but also one of the most dominant all-around months of October the game has ever seen.
4. David Freese: 2011 World Series, Game 6
2-for-5, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Most would probably vote for Game 6 of the 1975 World Series as the greatest game of all time, but if that's the case, Game 6 of the 2011 series is not far behind.
The Texas Rangers entered the game leading the series 3-2, and looked to be on their way to hoisting the trophy as they entered the bottom of the ninth with a 7-5 lead.
Closer Neftali Feliz came on and struck out the first batter he faced before running into trouble in giving up a double to Albert Pujols and walking Lance Berkman. He struck out Allen Craig for the second out of the inning, bringing up David Freese.
Down to his final strike with a 1-2 count, Freese connected and hit what appeared to be a catchable fly ball to right field. It wound up getting over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz, though, for a two-run, game-tying triple to send things to extra innings.
The Rangers quickly regained the lead on a two-run home run from Josh Hamilton in the top of the 10th, but RBI from Ryan Theriot and Berkman in the bottom of the inning again knotted things up.
Jake Westbrook pitched a scoreless top of the 11th for the Cardinals, and Freese led off the bottom of the 11th with a game-winning home run to cap off his heroic day and extend the series to Game 7, which the Cardinals would win.
3. Sandy Koufax: 1965 World Series, Game 7
9.0 IP, W, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K
If Bumgarner pitching five innings on two-days rest is impressive (it is), then we may need to come up with a different word for what Sandy Koufax did in the 1965 World Series.
The '65 season was right at the peak of the left-hander's dominance, as he went 26-8 with a 2.04 ERA and 382 strikeouts during the regular season to win his second Cy Young award in three years.
Koufax started Game 2 of the World Series and actually took the loss, as the Minnesota Twins tagged him for six hits and two runs in six innings, and Jim Kaat threw a gem on the other side.
His next start in Game 5 was a different story entirely, as Koufax allowed just four hits and one walk while striking out 10 on his way to a dominant complete-game shutout.
The Minnesota Twins won Game 6 with their backs against the wall, and the Dodgers decided to go back to Koufax on two days rest to start Game 7.
The 29-year-old matched his Game 5 brilliance with another complete-game shutout, locking down what would be his third and final World Series title and claiming his second World Series MVP award.
2. Don Larsen: 1956 World Series, Game 5
9 IP, W, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
In just his second season with the New York Yankees and his fourth season in the league, Don Larsen found himself as the No. 2 starter in the New York rotation behind ace Whitey Ford heading into the 1956 World Series.
The left-hander got an early hook in Game 2, as he lasted just 1.2 innings and allowed four walks and four unearned runs before giving way to the bullpen.
The Yankees wound up losing Game 2 to fall behind 0-2 in the series, but they bounced back to win the next two games, setting up a pivotal Game 5 with Larsen on the mound.
The 26-year-old had his best stuff working on Oct. 8, 1956, as he would throw absolutely dominate a Dodgers lineup that featured five future Hall of Famers on his way to the only perfect game in postseason history.
The Yankees went on to win the series in seven games, and while Larsen would wrap up his 14-year career with a forgettable 81-91 record and 3.78 ERA, his name will forever be etched in the annals of baseball history thanks to that one dominant start.
1. Jack Morris: 1991 World Series, Game 7
10.0 IP, W, 7 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
Signed in the offseason to a one-year, $3.7 million contract to be the ace of the Twins' staff, Jack Morris found himself very much in the role of ace when he took the hill for Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, a game set up by Kirby Puckett's dramatic walk-off home run in Game 6.
Morris won Game 1 of the series and took a no-decision in Game 4, despite giving up just one run in six innings of work. Pitching on three days rest, he would not give the bullpen a chance to give the game away in the decisive Game 7.
Morris and a then-24-year-old John Smoltz matched each other zero-for-zero with seven shutout innings before the Atlanta Braves turned to the bullpen. Things would remain scoreless through nine, and Morris took the mound for the top of the 10th with a pitch count of 118 and no intention of leaving the game.
He needed just eight pitches to get through the 10th inning 1-2-3, and in the bottom of the 10th the Twins finally pushed across a run on a Gene Larkin RBI single.
The perfect game of Don Larsen is an impressive feat, and you can make a strong case for a number of guys being in the No. 1 spot on this list, but for my money Jack Morris authored the greatest single-game performance in World Series history.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.