Madison Bumgarner pitched five innings of near-perfect relief and the San Francisco Giants held off the Kansas City Royals 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 7 of the World Series for their third championship in five seasons.
With both starters chased early, this became a matchup of bullpens. And no one stood taller than the 6-foot-5 Bumgarner, who added to his postseason legacy with a third victory this Series.
After center fielder Gregor Blanco misplayed Alex Gordon's drive for a single and two-base error, Bumgarner got Salvador Perez to pop foul to third baseman Pablo Sandoval for the final out.
The Giants ended a Series streak that had seen home teams win the last nine Game 7s. San Francisco took this pairing of wild-card teams after earning titles in 2012 and 2010.
Pitching on two days' rest after his shutout in Game 5, Bumgarner entered in the fifth with a 3-2 lead. After giving up a leadoff single to Omar Infante, he shut down the Royals until Gordon's hit.
Neither manager wanted to be caught waiting too long to make a move and Bruce Bochy pulled Tim Hudson in the second. Jeremy Affeldt relieved and threw 2 1-3 scoreless innings in his longest stint since 2012.
Giants designated hitter Michael Morse drove in two runs, including a go-ahead single in the fourth off Kelvin Herrera. A moment earlier, Royals manager Ned Yost had yanked starter Jeremy Guthrie.
After a Series full of lopsided results, this quickly shaped as something much more tight and tense.
Bochy spent a lot of time on the field. Along with pulling Hudson, Bochy became the first manager to win a video review challenge under Major League Baseball's expanded replay format.
Eric Hosmer was initially ruled safe by first base umpire Eric Cooper while making a headfirst dive to beat out a double-play relay in the third. But after a review that took 2 minutes, 57 seconds, Hosmer was called out, completing a slick play started by rookie second baseman Joe Panik's dive and glove flip to shortstop Brandon Crawford.
The crowd noise at Kauffman Stadium was constant and loud. The fans cheered when Billy Butler singled and hustled home on a double by Gordon, and booed when Perez was hit in the leg and knocked to the dirt -- that all happened in a span of three pitches.
Small ball was the story early, with three sacrifice flies in the second inning alone. Morse drove in Sandoval with the bases loaded and no outs, and Crawford drove in Hunter Pence with another fly to make it 2-0.
The Royals rallied back fast. After Infante's sacrifice fly tied it at 2, Alcides Escobar singled with two outs and that was all for Hudson.
At 39, Hudson was the oldest pitcher to start Game 7 in the Series. He had signed with the Giants in the offseason as a free agent, hoping to reach the World Series for the first time, and maybe win a championship. This was his chance and instead, he had the shortest start in Game 7 of a Series since Bob Turley of the Yankees lasted only one inning against Pittsburgh in 1960.
Before the game, something happened that caught the attention of both teams.
As the Royals were taking batting practice and the Giants were stretching beyond their dugout, a person wearing white formal gloves, and accompanied by a security guard, carried the gleaming, gold-and-silver World Series trophy across the grass behind the cage.
The prize was probably headed to a safe spot, waiting to be presented to the winner. Players on both sides watched the procession and some pointed, but no one dared jinx themselves by touching it.
Royals great George Brett, now a team executive, wandered over to a cluster of Giants and greeted some of them. Pence smiled and seemed to enjoy the moment.
Among those watching from near the backstop was Jack Morris. Hard to think about a Game 7 and not remember him.
Morris gave one of the greatest pitching performances of all-time, throwing a 10-hit shutout in 1991 to lead Minnesota over Atlanta 1-0 at the Metrodome.
"Game 7s don't come around very often. We're all hoping for them,'' said Morris, now a broadcaster.
When his time came, Morris was prepared.
"I knew what it meant, and I was ready to pitch,'' he said. "I wasn't nervous. I was confident.''
"That's how it should be. Every fielder should want the ball. Every hitter should want to be at the plate,'' he said.
Bret Saberhagen, who pitched a Game 7 shutout in 1985 to give Kansas City its only crown, threw out the first ball. Soon after, the game began after another stumble with the national anthem.
Opera star and longtime Royals fan Joyce DiDonato did fine singing "The Star-Spangled Banner,'' but tripped and fell in the batter's box while walking off the field.
Before Game 5 in San Francisco, county singer Aaron Lewis messed up the lyrics to the anthem and later apologized for the mistake.
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