October 31, 2014
World Series Game 7 was great entertainment, with a razor-close score for all nine innings. It was a dream come true for serious baseball fans: full of drama, tension, and heroic plays. All that was missing to make it perfect was a home team victory.
Neither starting pitcher lasted long. The Giants loaded the bases in the second inning on a hit batter and two singles, and scored first on a sacrifice fly by Michael Morse. Another sac fly (by Brandon Crawford) made it 2-0. That spooked the noisy home crowd just a bit, but in the bottom of the second, the Royals came right back. Billy Butler singled, and then made it all the way around the diamond to home plate after Alex Gordon hit a double near the pole in right field. That was fun to watch him run those 270 feet. Omar Infante hit a sac fly RBI later in the inning to tie the game, 2-2. Giants pitcher Tim Hudson was then replaced by Jeremy Affeldt, who quickly got the third out.
The key defensive play of the game was in the bottom of the third inning, after Lorenzo Cain hit a lead-off single. Eric Hosmer smashed a ground ball past the mound that was somehow snagged by rookie second baseman Joe Panik. Not only did Panik get the ball over to second for the force out, but shortstop Brandon Crawford threw it to first in time for an amazing double play. Instead of launching a rally, the Royals were abruptly shut down.
Then in the fourth inning, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence both singled, Brandon Belt hit a sac fly, and Jeremy Guthrie was replaced on the mound by Kelvin Herrera. The next batter, Michael Morse, then singled to get Sandoval across home plate, and the Giants took a 3-2 lead. Uh-oh...
In the fifth inning, Madison Bumgarner came in as a relief pitcher for the Giants, in spite of having had only two days rest. He pitched the final five innings of the game, throwing 68 pitches total, while only giving up two hits. But that second hit nearly changed the game's outcome. In the ninth inning, with two outs, Alex Gordon hit a ball which center fielder Gregor Blanco misplayed, and it rolled all the way to the fence, 400 feet from home. Gordon sprinted around second base but was held up at third base by the coach. That play will be debated for years. Could Gordon have made it home to tie the game? Probably not. The ball reached the cutoff man, shortstop Brandon Crawford, right after Gordon touched third, and the only way he could have reached home plate was on a bad throw. But with Madison Bumgarner on the mound, a small chance was probably better than almost no chance at all. The next batter, Salvador Perez, hit a pop foul ball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and that was how the game ended.
As the celebrations ensued in the Giants' locker room, no one questioned who should be the World Series MVP: Madison Bumgarner. He pitched seven innings in Game 1, giving up just one run, then nine shutout innings in Game 5, and five more shutout innings in Game 7. That makes an ERA of only 0.43 -- almost superhuman.
But plenty of credit should go to designated hitter Michael Morse, who got the first RBI and the go-ahead RBI in the deciding Game 7. His clutch performance at the plate was what won the game, and the series, for the Giants. And don't forget that it was his game-tying home run in the eighth inning of NLCS Game 5 that paved the way for the series victory over the Cardinals. That was really clutch, as St. Louis was one just inning away from making it a 2-3 series, with the last two games to be played at home in Busch Stadium. What if???
The Game 7 final score (3-2) was the same as Game 3, but reversed. In the other five games, the margin of victory was at least five runs. With so much inconsistency from one game to the next, it's hard to interpret the scoring results. But one thing is sure: Any team that wins a world championship three times in the space of five years (2010, 2012, 2014) has good cause to claim "dynasty" status. It's hard to remember that they went 55 years (since 1954) without a World Series title.
Congratulations to the Giants! (But wait till next year!)
The closeness of the two teams' run totals (30 to 27 in the Giants' favor) shows just how evenly matched this World Series was. In that respect, it was similar to both National League divisional series, which could have gone either way. In contrast, the rest of the series (both ALDS, ALCS, and NLCS) were pretty lopsided.
|NL Divisional Series (4)
|NL Divisional Series (4)
|AL Divisional series (3)
|AL Divisional series (3)
|NL Championship Series (5)
|AL Championship Series (4)
|World Series (7)
* (Number of games in parentheses.)
= Home team won deciding game. = Visiting team won deciding game.
The Royals set another MLB record that will never be broken (unless the playoff format changes): They achieved the highest postseason winning percentage (.733) of any team that lost the World Series: 11 wins and 4 losses. They went a full seven games, and they swept their previous opponents, and by definition nobody could do better. The Giants ended up with a .706 winning percentage, 12-5.
As a tribute to the new world champions, I submit these photos of some of the Giants at the August 15, 2013 game in Washington. The Giants scored 3 runs in the top of the ninth inning (guess who the Nats' closing pitcher was?), and won by a score of 4 to 3. I relied upon baseball-reference.com to refresh my memory about the exact sequence of plays, described in the photo captions below.
I'm nearly done with some minor alterations to the batter's eye and outfield seating areas of the Kauffman Stadium diagrams, based on tips from Chris Knight, and confirmed by closely scrutinizing my own photographs, such as the one below. For the record, my estimate of fair territory has been raised from 117,800 to 118,500 square feet. I started revising those fair and foul territory numbers at various stadiums early in September, and will finish that task in the next week or so...
Here's a photo taken by my brother Dan on July 25, back when it appeared far more likely that the World Series would be played in Washington than in Kansas City...