Giants’ playoff pitching

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The variwide chart above shows the Giants’ performance by pitcher in the 2014 postseason. With innings pitched on the x-axis and ERA on the y-axis, the area of each bar represents total earned runs allowed — and wide bars far above or below the average have the most impact. Three of the Giants’ four starters had mediocre to poor ERAs, and none of those three pitched many innings. The fourth, however, was Madison Bumgarner, who tossed nearly a third of San Francisco’s innings with a sensational 1.03 ERA. The back end of the Giants’ bullpen was also excellent, with Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo combining for one earned run.

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World Series: Bumgarner’s brilliance, updated

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Madison Bumgarner’s 2014 postseason was already outstanding, but five innings of scoreless relief in a one-run Game 7 made it legendary. Giants manager Bruce Bochy made it clear that Bumgarner would be available out of the bullpen on two days’ rest, but surely no one imagined he would pitch more than half the game. After allowing a single to the first batter he faced, the southpaw retired 14 straight Royals, then bested Sal Perez with the tying run on third for a 3-2 victory and a World Series championship. For the series, Bumgarner allowed just one run in 21 innings, and only 12 of the 74 batters he faced reached base.

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World Series: Bumgarner’s Brilliance

madison_bumgarner_giants_world_series_starts_2014Madison Bumgarner shut out the Royals on four hits Sunday night, giving the Giants a 3-2 lead in the World Series. That performance followed up a 7-inning, one-run victory in Game 1. Bumgarner pitched out of trouble in the third inning of Game 1, but the lefty has been dominant since, allowing just two other runners to reach scoring position (one a Sal Perez homer). Over the final eight innings of Game 5, he let just two of 26 consecutive batters reach base.

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Royals’ historic win streak

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Data found with assistance from the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index

Kansas City will open the World Series against the Giants on Tuesday night, but the Royals have already made history by winning their first eight playoff games, matching the longest win streak in a single postseason. (Overall, Kansas City has won 11 playoff games in a row dating back to the 1985 World Series, one game short of the record held by two generations of Yankees teams.) Only the 2005 White Sox, who won games 2-5 of the ALCS before sweeping the World Series, and the 2004 Red Sox, who famously overcame a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS before beating St. Louis 4-0, had previously won eight straight playoff games in one year.

Of course, for most of baseball’s history, winning eight straight playoff games was impossible; a championship was clinched with four (or occasionally five) wins before 1969, seven until 1985, and eight until 1995. In that light, the most impressive postseason run came from Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of 1976, which swept the Phillies 3-0 in the NLCS and blanked the Yankees 4-0 in the World Series. Still, if they sweep the World Series, the Royals will join those Reds as the only perfect playoff teams of MLB’s multi-division era — with an even more impressive 12-0 record.

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Series-ending walk-offs

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Data via the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index

Travis Ishikawa’s game-winning homer won Game 5 of the NLCS and sent the Giants to the World Series — the ninth playoff series-winning home run in baseball history, but the first since four were hit in four years from 2003-06. Ishikawa, a journeyman bench player who the Giants acquired mid-season, was an unlikely hero — but perhaps not the unlikeliest. Six of the previous eight home-run hitters were All-Stars that same season, but that list includes Bill Mazeroski, who was best known for his glove at second base before ending the 1960 World Series. Other walk-off artists include light-hitting catchers Todd Pratt (1999 NLDS) and Chris Burke (2005 NLCS), whose home run rates were well below their peers’.

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Missouri digs the long ball

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With the Royals leading the Orioles 2-0 and the NLCS tied 1-1, an intra-Missouri rematch of the 1985 Kansas City-St. Louis World Series is still very much possible. The biggest reason why is a surprising power surge from the Show Me state. In the regular season, both teams finished dead last in their respective leagues in home runs, but things have changed completely in October. The Cardinals have blasted 11 homers in six games, including four in a 5-4 victory over San Francisco on Sunday night, while the Royals have eight dingers so far in their 6-0 playoff run — both at or above their peak regular-season levels.

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ALCS: Royals’ extra-inning magic

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The Royals are 5-0 this postseason in large part because of their extra-inning magic: After an 8-6, 10-inning win over the Orioles in Game 1 of the ALCS, Kansas City has played a total of eight extra frames and scored nine runs in that time, doubling their regular-season rate and exceeding that of any other postseason inning except the third. Perhaps more surprising is the way those runs have scored — six of nine extra-inning runs have come on homers for Royals, who hit the fewest regular-season homers of any AL playoff team in more than two decades.

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