By Jason Keidel
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This must make pinstriped fans grin — or grit their teeth — with a sense of nostalgia.
The San Francisco Giants have become the Yankees of the West. And not just in terms of matching World Series rings. There’s a selfless, pitching-rich, ’90s aura to them. Indeed, if you stroll down their lineup you won’t find a battalion of bats or stars.
Buster Posey is the only certified stud on the team. Yet it was Hunter Pence, who went 12-for-27, batting .444 for the Fall Classic. And Pence doesn’t roll off the lips when listing the most iconic sluggers in history.
In just a few weeks, Bumgarner etched his own baseball archive. He is one of just four players in history to win LCS and World Series MVP. His October 2014 ERA is 1.03, third-best ever in one postseason.
He slipped past Curt Schilling for most innings pitched in single postseason (52 2/3). He pitched 21 innings in this Fall Classic, to a 0.43 ERA. In 36 World Series innings over his career, Bumgarner has surrendered one run, for a 0.25 ERA. He had 17 strikeouts and one walk against Kansas City, with a 0.47 WHIP.
He’s the first pitcher in MLB history to amass two wins and one save in a World Series. He has the lowest World Series ERA with at least 25 innings pitched. The Royals batted .351 against pitchers not named Bumgarner, but just .127 against the new king of the mound. And he’s 25.
Like the ’90s Bombers, the Giants have a dugout of modest players who morph into autumn icons. Edgar Renteria was the World Series MVP in 2010. A shortstop who never wielded a big stick, Renteria wound up swatting two homers and driving in six runs. Pablo Sandoval, built like the Kingpin from Marvel Comics, bagged the award in 2012, and just set the all-time record for base hits in one postseason (26).
And now we have Bumgarner, the humble southpaw who plied his trade with surgical potency and an undertaker’s understatement.
As is often the case, the Giants carry the modest mien of their manager. Bruce Bochy is one of just five managers to win three World Series in five seasons. The others, as you might predict, are a conga line of luminaries, from Joe McCarthy to Casey Stengel. Yankees, of course. Bochy looks and acts like a direct descendent of the old, pinstriped salt.
There’s some eerie symmetry to this, a romantic, retrograde feel in that the new dynasty once belonged to the Big Apple. It’s hard to metabolize the reality that a baseball team once played on my island. Take the D train to 155th, right before River Avenue, where the last team of the 1950s remains.
And, oddly enough, Wednesday night was the first time since 1962 that a team won Game 7 with the tying run on third base. That would be the Yankees, of course, who beat the … San Francisco Giants. Willie McCovey lined out to Bobby Richardson with a man 90 feet from home plate.
Bochy has won nine straight postseason series, and is the 10th manager to win three World Series. The other nine are in the Hall of Fame. With two more series he ties Joe Torre for most in history. Both are former catchers, of course. Both made their bones on the Senior Circuit.
Torre was even born and raised a Giants fan, back when they were battling the Brooklyn Dodgers, a blood feud of nearly biblical contours. Believe it or not, the Giants lost 10-0 to the Dodgers in 1951, and 10-0 to Kansas City in 2014, before winning their respective championships the next day.
Mostly everyone east of Oakland wanted the Royals to win. Or at least it felt that way. What was there not to love? They were a perfect narrative — the beehive of a baseball team rising from the prairies, a tornadic force of scrappy, base-stealing bums who never knew they didn’t belong here in the first place.
Royals manager Ned Yost was quite gracious in defeat. Before answering his first question, he congratulated the Giants, which makes the loss that much more painful and poignant. You don’t get any sense the Royals will be back next year. They were a baseball comet.
But the Giants operate in an October nimbus, clever in ways that don’t short-circuit the scoreboard. They’re just winners. We remember when teams in New York were like that. Some of you even remember when the Yankees weren’t the only Giants in New York.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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