Secrets of Madison Bumgarner's success revealed
SAN Francisco Giants relieving pitcher Jeremy Affeldt believes the success behind Madison Bumgarner is the almost-endless range of pitches the shut-out maestro can tap into.
Bumgarner yesterday became just the fourth person since the Major League playoffs expanded in 1969 to throw multiple shutouts in the same post-season.
The 25-year-old went the distance against the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park, allowing just four hits in his team's 5-0 triumph in game five of the World Series.
The win means the Giants need just one more to secure their third title in five years.
Affeldt offered a fascinating insight to APN into the success behind Bumgarner - in particular his near un-hittable curveball.
"It was a pitch he started putting together last year, but it's kind of come alive this year now that he's got two different speeds on it," Affeldt told me.
"Now that gives him two different curveballs in four different locations - that's 16 different pitches if he can do it.
"He's just adding and continuing to make himself better."
Affeldt looked on with awe from the dugout after realising he wouldn't be needed from the bullpen for game five.
The orange-clad crowd of 43,087 joined in its appreciation, chanting "MVP" at the lefty deep into the game, creating an electric party-like atmosphere, following a moving pre-game tribute to the late actor Robin Williams, who was a Giants fan.
"It's one of the top performances," Affeldt said of Bumgarner.
"He threw an eight-inning game against Texas in the World Series in game four (in the Giants' successful 2010 World Series).
"But this one - I'm going to say I haven't seen a better performance in the World Series I've been to (Affeldt was a Giant in their 2010 and 2012 triumphs).
"He looked calm - he had the same demeanour as the one he had against Pittsburgh. He threw a CG (complete game in the Giants' 8-0 National League Wild Card victory) there too.
"We used to make fun of him last year because he could never finish a game - he'd go for eight, or eight and two-thirds.
"Now he's taking it to the extreme - going nine innings in the playoffs."
Bumgarner said he was surprised and humbled to be put alongside pitching legends Orel Hershiser, Randy Johnson and Josh Beckett, in terms of players who have thrown multiple no-hitters in the post-season since 1969.
And the Royals might not have seen the last of him just yet.
If the Fall Classic goes to game seven, with games six and seven (if required) to be played in Kansas City on Wednesday and Thursday (AEST), Bumgarner could terrorise the Royals - over a long distance - one more time for 2014.
"It's hard to say, but I'm not a big pitch count guy. So as long as you keep getting outs and you feel good, you should stay out there," Bumgarner said, when asked how many pitches he could throw if the series went to game seven.
Bumgarner received some security in the bottom of the eighth inning, with a Juan Perez double - which missed leaving the ballpark by inches for a home run - scored Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence.
Brandon Crawford then singled on a soft fly ball to left field, scoring Perez to open up a 5-0 lead.
That was after the hosts took a 2-0 advantage into that frame, before blasting Royals' reliever Wade Davis, who took a brilliant 1.00 earned run average from 72 innings this season, into the game.
Giants' star catcher Buster Posey, who some believe could have a career similar to Yankees legend Derek Jeter, succinctly summed up his team's success at the plate over the past two games, both of which have been crucial victories.
"I think a lot of guys on this team can stay within themselves (calm) in the big moments," said Posey, a two-time World Series champion and All Star.
Sandoval has been a shining light for the Giants in a performing batting line-up, coming up with 22 hits this post-season from 15 games at an average of .338.
The "Kung Fu Panda" weighs 109kg and looks more like a prop forward than an extremely agile third baseman.
"I think he's just a gifted athlete. He's a guy that can throw left-handed almost as well as he can throw right-handed," Posey said about Sandoval, the big man excelling in the Giants' past two wins, despite being sick with the flu.
"He's very athletic, especially for being a bigger man."
Affeldt said the pitching match-up between the Giants' Jake Peavy and the Royals' Yordano Ventura, both who had an absorbing clash in game one of the series, where the opposing starters went for two runs over five innings, should be a knife-edge battle once again in game six.
"Jake's a competitor. He's very prepared and he knows what he has to do to execute the pitches," Affeldt said.
"I think we have a lot of faith in our starters to go out and do the job.
"As long as he gives us a chance to win, I think everybody will be very pleased with that.
"That guy (Ventura) is throwing a hundred gazillion miles an hour against the wily veteran (Peavy) on the mound - it'll be a fun game to watch."