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Playoff Pinch Hits: Pitching Matchup Favors Giants In Game 5

By Sam McPherson

Down 4-1 early in Game Four of the World Series on Saturday night to the Kansas City, the San Francisco Giants responded with 10 unanswered runs to gallop away with an 11-4 victory, tying the Fall Classic at two games apiece.

After two straight wins by the Royals in the best-of-seven matchup, the Giants bats finally came alive in front of the home crowd. And on Sunday, San Francisco sends their best pitcher to the mound, probably for the last time this season. Madison Bumgarner and James Shields will reprise their Game One battle, which was another very one-sided affair in favor of the Giants.

San Francisco is hard to put away, as the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals found out in 2012 when both had the Giants pinned to the wall. We all know how that ended up. Now, this World Series becomes a best of three, and there will be a Game Six back in Kansas City on Tuesday night.

The Royals can shrug this one off as one of those nights, as every pitching move they made seemed to backfire, as six different San Francisco hitters drove in runs Saturday night. The Giants just want to maintain the home-crowd momentum they recaptured in Game Four and carry it over to Sunday — and back to Kansas City after that.

MadBum's Last Stand

Bumgarner has pitched a total of 256 innings this year, regular season and postseason combined. That's a lot of mileage on an arm, and this will definitely be his last start of the postseason barring some odd weather delays when the Series returns to Kansas City. He's never thrown more than 223 innings before in his short career: This is uncharted territory for him.

The Giants have run starters Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum into the ground with their recent October successes, and maybe it's Bumgarner's turn to carry the load for this otherwise-mediocre rotation. Does he have one last sterling performance in him? San Francisco surely is hoping so.

Strangely, all three of Bumgarner's postseason career losses have come at home. His one career postseason win at AT&T Park was Game Two of the 2012 Series against the Detroit Tigers.

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Where Is "Big Game" James?

How does one get a moniker like "Big Game" anyway? Shields hasn't been particularly good for the Royals this October, in truth. And his career postseason ERA is an unsightly 5.74 over 53 1/3 innings. He's been entirely hittable in the postseason for his career, giving up 68 hits and 14 walks over 10 starts in October for the Tampa Bay Rays and now the Royals.

His 3-5 record in the playoffs isn't impressive either, of course. This year, the Oakland Athletics hammered him in the American League Wild Card Game, and after he was effective against the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series, the Baltimore Orioles also took him to the woodshed in the League Championship Series.

The entire nickname seems to be based on the single postseason start he didn't allow any runs: Game Two of the 2008 Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Even then, he gave up seven hits and two walks in just 5 2/3 innings. If Shields doesn't win Game Five, that "Big Game James" nonsense will need to be retired immediately.

Game Five Outlook

It's hard to pick against Bumgarner in this one, since he's been so good this postseason. But if you're going to beat the lefty, AT&T Park is the place to do it. He was just 7-6 with a 4.03 ERA there during the regular season, although his postseason ERA at home this October is a more respectable 3.00 over 15 innings.

Shields has one quality start in four this postseason; the Giants lit him up for five runs on seven hits in just three innings back in Game One. We know the Royals bullpen is money, but it's time for Shields to show he is, too.

Like most postseason games, this is just a coin flip — but if it goes to extra innings, and we may be due for one of those, the edge has to go to the Giants with the home-field advantage of batting last. Although that didn't seem to bother the Royals in the Division Series against the Angels, of course.

So as noted, Game Five will be decided by the proverbial flip of the coin — the baseball gods tossing.

Check out 5 Things You Missed from the World Series.

Check out other Playoff Pinch Hits.

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on

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