The most enigmatic regular season I can remember produced a postseason I’ll never forget. From the Royals’ improbable comeback against the A’s in the AL Wildcard game, to the dominant performance of Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wildcard matchup against Pittsburgh, we had an inkling of what to expect from the 2014 MLB playoffs. These two teams, both of which won less than 90 games during the season, capped off an amazing postseason frenzy with a final game that came down to the wire.
Contrary to the comments of some cynical pundits, this World Series was incredibly compelling. Compelling, that is, if you like to see an unbeatable pitcher, great outfield defense, two teams evenly matched, electric arms out of the bullpen, unlikely heroes, and a completely unpredictable seven games. Nothing compelling there, huh?
Here’s what I’ll remember about the final game of 2014.
It was over by the 5th inning. Two guys started the game who will be only footnotes in history. Tim Hudson of the Giants was taken out in the 2nd inning and Jeremy Guthrie of the Royals left in the 4th. By the time they exited, the game was over.
“You alright?” Apparently, that’s the question Buster Posey asked Madison Bumgarner when he entered the game in the 6th inning with less command than he’s had in a month. Omar Infante singled on what should have been a 2-0 count. After going 2-0 on Royals’ leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar, Bumgarner received the inexplicable gift of an out via sacrifice bunt. Nori Aoki, a light-hitting left-handed batter, lined out to left for the second out. Bumgarner then enticed Lorenzo Cain to swing at pitches out of the strike zone for the third out. After that, it was lights out. “I’m alright,” was the answer from that point on. The Royals never sniffed a chance until there were two outs in the 9th. He’s good. Other-worldly good. Better than we even thought. Yet, the Royals had a chance and couldn’t take advantage. There’s no guarantee that Escobar gets a hit or that the Royals score a run in the 6th, but giving Bumgarner outs when he is “struggling” is never a smart move. It’s like giving a millionaire more money.
If you live by the swing, you will die by the swing. Just ask “Swinging” Salvador Perez. In the AL Wildcard game, Perez never swung at a strike. His game-winning hit down the third baseline was a miraculous pulling of a pitch in the other batter’s box. That night, he lived by the swing. With Game 7 of the World Series on the line, however, he and the Royals died by his swing. He saw five pitches in that final at-bat against Bumgarner. See it for yourself, none of them were close.
He had no chance, really. Bumgarner knew it. Everyone knew it. Just get it somewhere toward the plate and Sal will swing. What a stubborn way to end the season.
Finally, no, Alex Gordon could not have scored. Not “if he was running hard.” He thought it was a single, not a ball that would skip past one outfield and be dribbled by another. Yes, he was hustling. No, you couldn’t have done better.
Now, it’s time to stare out the window and wait for spring.