Oct 16, 2014 4:36 AM

Hits and errors: A daily look at MLB postseason

The Associated Press

Madison Bumgarner, the moment is yours.

With the San Francisco Giants poised to win their third pennant in five years, there's nobody they would rather have on the mound.

Bumgarner gets a chance to pitch the Giants into the World Series tonight when he takes the ball in Game 5 of the NLCS against St. Louis.

Holding a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, San Francisco appears to be in good hands. The 6-foot-5 lefty with the long locks and scruffy beard has already become a familiar face and a consistent ace in October. He won 18 times this season and is 5-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 10 career postseason games.

The two-time All-Star has tossed 15 scoreless innings in World Series play, helping the Giants win championships in 2010 and 2012.

Hard to believe he's only 25.

"I feel like I'm still developing. I don't feel like I've hit a plateau. I feel like there's a lot of places to improve," Bumgarner said Wednesday. "If you just keep working and keep trying to learn, it's going to keep getting better."

His impressive numbers include a four-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts at Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game this year, and 7 2-3 innings of four-hit ball against the Cardinals during a 3-0 victory in Game 1.

"If they make adjustments and you can't, you're going to be in trouble," Bumgarner said. "So you have to be able to change your game plan up if you need to, and if you don't, then there's no reason to."

St. Louis sends its own ace to the mound in Adam Wainwright, who has failed to get out of the fifth inning in his first two playoff starts this year. He has allowed eight earned runs and 17 hits in nine innings.

"I just don't want to get a bad rap for not being a good playoff pitcher," Wainwright said. "That's the time I want to shine the most."

Wainwright blamed mechanical woes and not a sore elbow after losing Game 1 to the Giants and said he has worked out some kinks in his delivery.

San Francisco gets one chance to clinch at home. If the Cardinals can stave off elimination, the series goes back to St. Louis.

The winner travels to Kansas City for the World Series opener Tuesday night.



With a spot in the World Series assured, the Royals can now set up the rotation exactly the way they want, give their bullpen a break and get a little time to heal any nagging bumps and bruises.

Sounds ideal.

But it brings up a very familiar October theme: Rest, or rust?

Recent postseason history shows that a long break at this time of year isn't always a good thing. Especially for guys who've been playing most every day for more than six months.

The Tigers roared into the 2012 World Series after sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS, tried to stay loose during five off days and then fell flat in getting swept by San Francisco.

Same thing happened to Colorado when it got swept by Boston in the 2007 Series, a year after Detroit looked shaky with too much time off before losing to St. Louis.

Kansas City has five days off before opening the World Series at home Tuesday night against the Giants or Cardinals. The Royals will hold workouts and batting practice and maybe some simulated games. But nothing takes the place and keeps timing intact like real, live action.

For a team that's enjoyed such a great rhythm so far in winning all eight of its postseason games, it'll be interesting to see if this long layoff affects the Royals.



The San Francisco Giants are one win from making it a truly wild World Series.

The Giants can join the Kansas City Royals in forming only the second pair of wild-card teams to make the Fall Classic since the extra playoff teams were added in 1995 if they can finish off the St. Louis Cardinals tonight. San Francisco leads the best-of-seven NLCS 3-1.

In 2002, the Angels rallied to beat Barry Bonds and the Giants in a seven-game thriller.

Overall, 10 wild-card teams have advanced to the World Series, with four more joining the Angles as winners: Marlins (1997, 2003), Red Sox (2004) and Cardinals (2011).

From 2002-07, a wild card went to the World Series every year.

Two more teams were added to the postseason in 2012 and the wild cards in each league played a winner-take-all game for a spot in the best-of-five Division Series. In the first two years with the extra playoff round, only the 2012 Cardinals even made it to the Championship Series.

But these Royals have raced through eight straight wins to advance to their first World Series since 1985, while the Giants have lost just twice.



"These kids, from the minute you saw them you knew they were going to be special. Then they won championships in A-ball together and they won championships in Double-A together and they won championships in Triple-A together. And then their goal was to get up here and win a championship, and today they accomplished that." Kansas City manager Ned Yost on the team's young core after the Royals swept Baltimore to win the American League pennant.


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