Boys will be boys, but that sometimes includes getting a little reckless on their off-duty time. Last fall, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer sliced a thumb with one of his hobby drones and was almost useless to the Indians’ push to break their World Series drought. Now it’s springtime and Madison Bumgarner, on a day off, sprained a bone in his pitching shoulder and bruised a few ribs—breezing along on a dirt bike in Denver until he hit a slippery spot.
Wouldn’t you love to have known the dialogue between Giants manager Bruce Bochy and his Opening Day starting pitcher and Cy Ruth Award candidate Madison Bumgarner, when Bumgarner wasn’t pitching during their not-pretty 6-5 loss to the Diamondbacks? Rumour has it that it went something like this:
Bochy: Bum, it’s not that we don’t need the runs, but would you kindly remember that your job with this team is not to do your impersonation of Henry Aaron every other time up?
Bumgarner: Skip, just don’t look at me!
It was almost as if the Giants willed themselves to say, “How dare you bash our MadBum for three, you miscreants!” But this time, this eighth inning, nobody in a Cub uniform made a fatal mistake or a terrible pitch or a careless error.
This time, this eighth inning, this Game Three of this National League division series, the Cubs threw the best they had at the Giants, who threw the best he had at Kid Conor Gillaspie.
The Mets survived everything thrown at them in 2016 and came up three bucks short. The Giants survived themselves and, at the eleventh hour, punched their ticket to Chicago for a division series showdown with the Cubs.
And until Jeurys Familia threw the wrong pitch to a no-name number eight hitter named Conor Gillaspie, who had to step in for injured Eduardo Nunez late in the season, the National League wild card game threatened to go to extra innings and maybe beyond no matter who might be the last man standing on the mound.
You could hear Dodger Stadium groan in the top of the third Monday night. An unearned Giants run that began with a steal and ended with a wild pitch was not supposed to happen when the Dodgers—behind Clayton Kershaw, yet—got crack number four at Madison Bumgarner this season.
You could hear the ballpark groan a little through the howls as the Dodger seventh ended, and Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig had a little debate following the inning-ending out Puig made on a checked-swing infield grounder. A debate apparently provoked by Bumgarner himself.
Let history record that the first run batted in of the 2016 season was delivered by a pitcher. At the plate. A pitcher who’d had only three runs batted in in his entire career (nine seasons) prior to last year, when he drove in seven. And his name wasn’t Madison Bumgarner.
Let history record further that Clayton Kershaw was the beneficiary of the worst Opening Day blowout in major leaguer history a day later. And, that Bryce Harper rocked the best postgame cap around the circuits. So far.
What to take away from the All-Star Game other than the American League’s 6-3 win and thus home field advantage for this year’s World Series? The Mike Trout Show?
* Trout (Angels) became the first player in 38 years to lead off an All-Star Game going deep, hitting Zack Greinke’s (Dodgers) fourth pitch the other way, into the right field seats next to the Great American Ballpark visitors’ bullpen. Add scoring ahead of a powerful throw by Joc Pedersen (Dodgers) on Prince Fielder’s (Rangers) single in the fifth, and Trout—who’d reached base in the first place by beating out what might have been a double play finisher—joined Willie Mays, Steve Garvey, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Gary Carter as baseball’s only two-time All-Star Game MVPs.
Hands up to everyone who expected Game Six to be a blowout on either side. Join the club, I didn’t expect it either. So let’s be reasonable, consider the source, and call what the Kansas City Royals did Tuesday night a 10-0 slashout.
Now, hands up to everyone who thought the Royals would hang up a seven-spot in the second inning Tuesday night. Join the club, I didn’t expect that, either. But there they were. The Roach Coach’s windows were wiped, the oil was changed, the tank was filled with fuel, and the Royals sent it into runaway train mode before the San Francisco Giants had a clue to what was hitting them.
We’ve learned two more things from Game Five. Thing one: Madison Bumgarner is traveling in the World Series company of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling, Whitey Ford, and Lefty Grove. Thing two: H-D-H, or at least H and D, are only human, too.
Bumgarner pitched a masterpiece of a shutout Sunday night, Kelvim Herrera left first and second for Wade Davis in the eighth only to see them score on Juan Perez’s fat-the-calf double, and the San Francisco Giants put themselves on the threshold of becoming the second team other than the Boston Red Sox to collect three World Series rings in the 21st century.
Some put it this way: The Kansas City Royals only have to win four out of the next six games, and they may only have to deal with Madison Bumgarner in the fourth of the six, if the World Series gets that far in the first place. Makes it sound simple enough, right? All they have to do otherwise is keep the San Francisco Giants from swarming forth right out of the chute.