The San Francisco Giants are one win away from ending Major League Baseball’s third-longest World Series drought thanks to the pitching of a 21-year-old rookie.
Madison Bumgarner threw eight shutout innings in the Giants’ 4-0 win over the Texas Rangers last night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, holding baseball’s top-hitting team to three singles. He’s the youngest starting pitcher to win a World Series game since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
The Giants lead the best-of-seven World Series three games to one and would clinch their first championship since 1954, when they were based in New York, by winning Game 5 today in Arlington. The only teams with longer World Series droughts than the Giants are the Chicago Cubs (102 years) and Cleveland Indians (62 years).
“It’s great that we’re up 3-1 right now, but we definitely can’t look past this team,’” Bumgarner said during a televised interview. “Everybody knows what they can do.”
Two-time Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum is scheduled to start today for the Giants against Cliff Lee. It’s a rematch of Game 1, which San Francisco won 11-7, giving Lee his first loss in nine postseason starts.
“We got (Lee) last game, but you know he’s going to come out and really want to get us,” said Aubrey Huff, who hit a two-run home run for the Giants last night.
Bumgarner, who was taken by the Giants with the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft and started this season in the minor leagues, is the fourth-youngest starting pitcher to win a World Series game.
Valenzuela was 20 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1981 World Series, as was Jim Palmer for Baltimore in 1966 and ‘Bullet’ Joe Bush for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1913.
“I can’t say enough about what he did,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said during a news conference. “A 21-year-old kid pitching on that stage. He had it all working.”
Brian Wilson threw a scoreless ninth inning for the Giants, who are the second team to shut out the Rangers at home this season. Giants’ pitchers have combined for four shutouts this postseason, the most since the 1905 New York Giants blanked the Philadelphia Athletics four times in the World Series.
“They’ve certainly been pitching as advertised,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said during a news conference. “They’ve done a great job. We’ve got to figure out a way to put some runs on the board against them.”
Six teams have rallied from 3-1 series deficits to win the World Series, the last being the 1985 Kansas City Royals. The Rangers, who are in the World Series for the first time, have lost 13 straight games in San Francisco dating back to 1998.
“It’s a tough road coming back, but if there’s one team that can do it, it’s right here in this clubhouse,” Rangers starting pitcher Tommy Hunter told reporters.
Huff hit a two-run homer off Hunter in the top of the third inning last night after a leadoff double by Andres Torres. It was the first career postseason home run for Huff, who led the Giants with 26 homers during the regular season.
Hunter, 24, lasted four innings and lost at home for the first time in 13 games this season.
San Francisco tacked on a third run in the seventh inning, when Edgar Renteria singled and scored on a two-out double by Andrew Torres off Rangers reliever Darren Oliver. Giants rookie catcher Buster Posey hit a solo homer to straightaway center field in the eighth inning.
“We’ve got some impressive young talent here with Buster Posey behind the dish and (Bumgarner) on the mound,” said Huff.
The Giants spent 37 days in first place during the regular season, by far the fewest of the eight postseason teams. Only three teams have won the World Series after spending less than 40 days atop their division, the last being the Florida Marlins in 2003.
“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Bochy said. “We’ve still got work ahead of us.”