ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballStL) -- In this era with managers constantly stressing out over pitch counts and innings worked it’s extremely rare to see a starting pitcher allowed to throw on just two days rest. Even for a Game 7 of the World Series. But that’s what the San Francisco Giants did with Madison Bumgarner, and the 6’5” lefty responded with five shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals. Bumgarner has now put together a postseason resume that ranks at the top of baseball history.
In his three World Series with the Giants, Bumgarner is a combined 4-0 with a save and a 0.25 ERA, along with three championship rings. He’s pitched 36 World Series innings, and allowed just one run and 14 hits, striking out 31 and walking five.
His performance in the Game 7 victory over the Kansas City evoked memories (at least among old timers) of Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. Gibson worked the seventh game of the 1964 World Series on two days rest, and beat the New York Yankees 7-5. Gibby was running out of gas late in the game, gave up two runs in the ninth, but was allowed by manager Johnny Keane to finish the game and wrap up the series for the Cardinals. Tim McCarver was Gibson’s catcher in that series, and was impressed that Bumgarner could match Gibson’s competitiveness.
"It's Gibson-esque, if you will,” said McCarver. “I know Bob could do that and I saw that from a 60-feet, 6-inch view of him every outing he threw in the World Series. I see the same thing in Bumgarner. I really admire that.”
The next year Koufax turned in a similar performance. The Los Angeles Dodgers lefty didn’t pitch Game 1 of the series against Minnesota because it was Yom Kippur. He pitched games two and five, and then learned from manager Walter Alston just before Game 7 that he would get the ball again. The Dodgers had Don Drysdale ready to go on full rest, but went with Koufax anyway.
Koufax was fatigued after throwing 335 innings in the regular season and 27 complete games. He couldn’t control his curve ball in Game 7, so he threw almost all fastballs. He admitted to be very tired, but managed to go the distance in a three-hit shutout against the Twins.
Bumgarner didn’t start Game 7, or throw a complete game on two days rest like Gibson and Koufax. But he showed the same kind of mental and physical toughness that made Gibby and Sandy, both Hall of Famers, legends in the game. During the Giants postgame celebration Bumgarner insisted that he was feeling fine, and could have pitched more if his team needed that. But a half hour later, in the locker room, he confessed. Bumgarner said, “You know what? I can’t lie to you anymore. I’m a little tired now.”