Feeling strong, Bumgarner gets critical Game 5 nod
Giants ace kept on regular rest for rematch with Royals' Shields
By Anthony DiComo
SAN FRANCISCO -- Part of the reasoning behind the Giants pitching Madison Bumgarner on regular rest in World Series Game 5 tonight (4 p.m. PT air time/5:07 p.m. first pitch on FOX), as opposed to on short rest in Game 4, was his workload. Between the regular season and playoffs, Bumgarner has thrown 256 innings. Tack on Spring Training and the number jumps to 278 2/3. Add on countless bullpen session and games of catch, and that's thousands upon thousands upon thousands of throws.
Yet when asked about his health leading into Game 5, Bumgarner insisted that "I feel as good as I've felt all year right now, which is fortunate for me."
It is also quite fortunate for the Giants, who will be looking for Bumgarner to send them back to Kansas City with momentum. Over the past seven months, Bumgarner has established himself as the Giants' clear ace and one of their most valuable organizational pieces, as they look to win a third title in five seasons. In Game 1, he easily outpitched Kansas City starter James Shields, who will be his counterpart again in Game 5.
But this time, the stakes will be even higher. Because San Francisco's Game 4 victory tied the Series at 2, Bumgarner and Shields will be looking to move their respective teams one win away from a title.
"It's just of one of those things as a baseball player you've got to really hone in," Shields said. "I've been on this stage before, and I know exactly what to feel like when I'm out there, and I think this time around I'm not going to be as amped up and just try to keep my emotions in check."
That is not usually a problem for Bumgarner, the laid-back North Carolinian whose slow drawl speaks volumes about his personality. Leaning heavily on his fastball-cutter-slider combination in Game 1, Bumgarner retired 12 straight batters during one middle-innings stretch, allowing a total of one run and three hits in seven innings.
For the Royals, the keys to denting Bumgarner could be Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon, who combined to go 0-for-6 against him in Game 1. For Bumgarner, the key is simply more of the same -- easier said than done on a World Series stage.
"You've got to realize it's the World Series and you're playing a really good team, both sides," Bumgarner said. "You don't get here without being really good. So we've just got to go out there and you can't worry about the stuff you can't control. I know you hear it all the time, but that's the key to success in this game, I believe. You can't worry about what you can't control, and you've got to go out there and make sure you're ready mentally and physically to play fundamentally sound baseball."
If that proves difficult given all the mileage on his arm, Bumgarner does not plan to show it. Though he disputed reports that he outright asked to start Game 4 over Ryan Vogelsong, Bumgarner did admit to altering his between-starts routine to keep that option open. He called that a "mutual" decision between himself and the team, though manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants never told him to do it.
"Vogey and Madison are going to pitch in these two games," said Bochy, later adding that he feels "a lot better" with Bumgarner on regular rest. "Both of them are very important games, so we weren't going to move Madison up and change his routine or Vogey's. There was nothing that me or [pitching coach Dave Righetti] said to change his routine."
Simply put, there was no reason to change. Even after starting Game 5, Bumgarner could be available for an inning or two in a potential Game 7.
More importantly, and more urgently, he should be at full strength Sunday heading into one of the biggest games of his life.
"There is no panic," Bumgarner said. "There is obviously a sense of urgency but there is no panic. A lot of guys have been in a lot worse position than we are right now and were able to come through with some wins and on top. We've got a lot of guys that know what it takes."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.