KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Until Game 7, we'd been led to believe that Madison Bumgarner was only human. That's what Giants manager Bruce Bochy told us when asked why Bumgarner wasn't starting Wednesday night's do-or-die showdown with the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
We shrugged. Two days' rest after throwing 117 pitches in the Game 5 shutout. Tacked on to an already heavy workload this October. Most mortals would be ready to pack their shoulder in ice for the winter.
But Bumgarner isn't human. Not in the usual sense of the word. Humans get tired.. And what Bumgarner did to lock down a 3-2 victory for the Giants in Game 7 was almost supernatural.
Once Bumgarner was called on for the fifth inning, the Royals took their best shot -- a leadoff single by Omar Infante -- and then did nothing until Alex Gordon's wild romp to third base with two outs in the ninth. The confident, ultra-aggressive Royals turned into cocker spaniels, rolling over as Bumgarner stared them down.
"Yeah," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "it was hopeless."
We didn't spot any wires snaking beneath Bumgarner's cap or an exposed circuit board. But this was machine-like efficiency. Thrust into the Kauffman crucible, Bumgarner retired 14 straight, then retired Salvador Perez on a pop-up for the final out.
A late scoring change took the victory away from Bumgarner and awarded him a save instead. But he still finished 2-0 with a 0.43 ERA and was responsible for 21 of the 61 innings pitched by the Giants in this World Series.
Bochy hoped he could get 40 to 50 pitches from Bumgarner in Game 7.
He threw 68.
"I don't know if I could have gotten him off the mound, to be honest," Bochy said. "We stretched him out pretty good."
The Fall Classic had turned into the Madison Bumgarner Show.
Even after Sunday's dominance of the Royals at AT&T Park, it seemed all anyone wanted to talk about was Bumgarner. How was he feeling? When would he be available? Could he start Game 7? Why not?
The answer finally came Wednesday night in the fifth inning, after Bochy had burned the reliable Jeremy Affeldt as the critical bridge he needed to get to Bumgarner.
MVP doesn't come close to adequately describe what Bumgarner was for the Giants in this World Series and the only time he looked vulnerable was after Gordon's sinking liner kicked around the left-centerfield wall in the ninth.
"I wasn't sure what happened," Bumgarner said. "But I was starting to get a little nervous."
It didn't show. With Gordon dancing off third, hoping to rattle him, Bumgarner went right after Perez, who lifted a pop-up that Pablo Sandoval smothered in front of the Giants' dugout.
"A little bit of relief, a little bit of excitement," Bumgarner said. "You're just sitting there trying to figure out if it really just happened or not."
That's what we all wondered in watching Bumgarner this month. Before Game 7, he already was 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA for these playoffs. By the end, Bumgarner had passed Curt Schilling for most innings pitched in a single postseason by amassing 522/3. His ERA dropped to 1.03, third all-time behind the Dodgers' Burt Hooten (0.82, 1981) and the Braves' John Smoltz (0.95, 1996).
For us, the simple act of scrolling through all those numbers is exhausting. And that's only a snapshot of Bumgarner's accomplishments this October. The way he polished off the Royals, however, we wondered how much -- if anything -- Bumgarner had left in the tank.
Was he even feeling fatigued?
"You know what? I can't lie anymore," Bumgarner said. "I'm a little tired now."