Here's a sobering thought for the Royals: What if Madison Bumgarner, with the Giants holding a lead in Tuesday night's Game 6, asks for the ball to close out the World Series?
It's not impossible. Bumgarner's dominance of the Royals has been so complete, so thoroughly demoralizing, why wouldn't Giants manager Bruce Bochy get a little greedy if the situation were to arise?
"Oh, I'm sure he's going to say he's OK to go," Bochy said during Monday's workout at Kauffman Stadium. "That's who he is. He really bounces back well, and we wouldn't ask him to do a lot. But if I needed to get an out or something, I'm sure he'll say he's available."
The timing could work, too. Bumgarner is scheduled to throw his usual bullpen session today, so throwing those same pitches in Game 6 instead is sort of the same workload anyway.
After throwing 117 pitches in Sunday night's 5-0 shutout at AT&T Park, Bumgarner already said he planned to skip that tuneup. On Oct. 28, after throwing 472/3 innings this postseason -- for a whopping total of 265 overall -- he doesn't need to waste any more bullets on the side. He's so locked in right now, there's no place he'd rather be than on the mound.
"It just depends on how you feel," Bumgarner said. "I don't really have a set routine that I do. I just kind of go by feel and try to adjust for what we need."
That's the question. Will the Giants really need Bumgarner? He gave the bullpen a night off Sunday, and at this time of year, that's a big luxury. Bumgarner's length meant two full days of rest for Yusmeiro Petit, who has not allowed a run and has struck out 13 in 12 innings, as well as the back-end combo of Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.
Barring a meltdown by Jake Peavy in Game 6, the Giants should be in excellent shape to wrap up this series, at least from a pitching perspective.
"We do things a little different how we work our bullpen," Bochy said. "Not quite as structured. But when you look at the guys down there, they give you some weapons that you use at different times."
The possibility of adding Bumgarner to that mix -- just seeing him standing there -- would be deflating for the Royals. Bumgarner is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two starts against Kansas City in this World Series. In this postseason, Bumgarner is 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA and opponents are hitting .156 against him.
The scary thing is Bumgarner seems to be getting better the deeper he pitches into October. But say the Royals do take Game 6. If Tim Hudson doesn't have it in Game 7, how early would Bochy tap Bumgarner?
In the 2001 World Series, after throwing 104 pitches in seven innings in a 15-2 Game 6 win over the Yankees, Randy Johnson returned the next night and got the final four outs in the Diamondbacks' walk-off Game 7 victory, earning co-MVP honors with Curt Schilling. Bumgarner could retire four Royals in his sleep, and there's little doubt who has the MVP nailed down if the Giants prevail.
Bumgarner doesn't need another outing for that, but we'd enjoy seeing him again nonetheless. Unless plenty of Giants fans make it to Kauffman Stadium this week, he obviously won't hear the "MVP!" chants that serenaded him for the ninth inning of Game 5. But after what Bumgarner has done during this history-making postseason, he's as close to a sure thing as the Giants have in their arsenal.
"When this guy is on, it's fun to watch," Bochy said.
Sorry, Royals. We're hoping that Bumgarner isn't done just yet.