Published October 20, 2014
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - You can't teach experience.
That's one advantage the San Francisco Giants have entering their third World Series in the last five years. It's been 29 years since the upstart Cinderella Kansas City Royals were in the Fall Classic and their magical postseason run will come to a screeching halt when they tangle with the accomplished Giants.
San Francisco playing for all the marbles has become more common lately and the club owes it all to a solid nucleus and a wise manager in Bruce Bochy. Bochy knows the aches and pains of baseball. His club had to battle its way to make the playoffs and now the Giants are going for it all in the 110th World Series.
"This isn't easy to get here," Bochy said. "You saw how we had to go through a Wild Card Game, then go through two very good teams. It's pretty amazing, really, how difficult it is to get here."
Two of Bochy's top players, starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey, are playing in their third World Series, while weathered veteran starter Tim Hudson is in his first. Hudson being in his first World Series proves that catching on with the right team at the right time is imperative.
Hudson, who is expected to go in Game 3, is happy for both Bumgarner and Posey, but is also appreciative of catching on with a winner.
"It's awesome for them to be able to experience it that often," Hudson said. "Obviously, with my experience, it's something I've searched for and waited all 16 years. It's not that easy. You have to have a lot of luck and a lot of good players. To be on a team that has that much success that often, that doesn't happen all the time, especially nowadays, with so much parity in this game."
Bumgarner and Posey have matured through the years and know what it takes to reach the game's pinnacle. The battery mates play an essential role in the Giants' success and will be ready to go in Game 1 on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium. Posey said it's difficult to get to this point and players should appreciate and enjoy the moment.
Posey is two RBI shy of matching Barry Bonds (21) for the most in Giants franchise history in the postseason. He is a main weapon on a successful club that doesn't boast high-profile players, home run kings or household names.
The one who comes close to stardom is Bumgarner. He's another reason why the Giants will bring the Commissioner's Trophy to the bay area. Bumgarner was named MVP of the NLCS versus the St. Louis Cardinals and hasn't allowed a postseason run on the road over the last 26 2/3 innings dating back to that championship run of 2010.
The road has been a place Bumgarner thrives as evidenced by his 11-4 record and 2.22 earned run average in 18 starts as the visitor in the regular season. Bumgarner was 18-10 overall in the regular season. He struck out 10, allowed four hits and went the distance in an 8-0 win at Pittsburgh in the Wild Card game on Oct. 1, then threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings at St. Louis on Oct. 11.
So it's obvious the one called MadBum has no issues in a hostile environment. In six postseason starts at home, Bumgarner is just 1-3. But he has pitched at least seven innings in every start this postseason.
Imagine how dominant the rotation would be with a healthy Matt Cain and a consistent Tim Lincecum. Cain is done for the season and Lincecum is now working out of a strong bullpen. So instead of those two, Bochy has veterans Jake Peavy and Hudson, and postseason stud Ryan Vogelsong. Bochy said Lincecum is dealing with a stiff neck and isn't worried about the unused two-time NL Cy Young Award winner.
In 10 postseason games, Giants starters have recorded a 2.40 earned run average while limiting opponents to a 0.99 WHIP and a .207 batting average. The Giants have a strong advantage over Kansas City with their starters because after James Shields the Royals are in trouble.
When the starters give way to the bullpen it usually spells doom for the opposition. Clubs go through turnover year after year and there's four relief pitchers who have been with the Giants since 2010. Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo are gunning for their fourth ring.
"Experience is a big deal. We don't live in the past, but we rely on the past to get us through situations that we know we can pull through," Affeldt said.
The Royals are garnering all the bullpen hype, and deservedly so. However, these Giants can pitch in relief, too.
"Bochy knows how to use the bullpen," Casilla said. "He is the key, because we know what to do, but he has to know who to use."
Yusmeiro Petit, who Bochy described as a "great swingman," is an important member of the bullpen and helped the Giants get to where they are.
"We can say that about a lot of the guys here," Romo said, "but he's one of those ones that comes to mind first."
Petit made 12 starts and 27 relief appearances in the regular season, and retired 46 straight batters at one point. He has two wins with 11 strikeouts over nine scoreless innings in these playoffs.
Who will Bochy use as the designated hitter when the Giants are on the road? That could be Game 5 NLCS hero Michael Morse, who's healthy and an obvious choice for that role. Morse belted the tying home run in the NLCS clincher over the Cardinals.
The lineups match up well in this World Series. San Francisco is led by Posey and a handful of contributors in Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Pence, of course, is known for his animated pep talks that usually contain an expletive or two. He definitely knows how to get his teammates pumped up and will be at his best the next week or so.
Bochy said Sandoval is a great and gifted player. More commonly known as Panda, Sandoval is excited to be playing in October instead of watching the games on TV at home.
"It's exciting," Sandoval said. "You win or you go home. That's what we try to do every single day this time (of year), not get too excited in situations. You want to win games. So I think this is one of those things I've got on my mind right now, get a good pitch on the plate, have fun no matter what the situation is, what the score is, what the type of game you play is. Just have fun out there."
You could see how much fun this version of the Giants have on the field and it will be more exciting to watch when they're crowned kings of baseball again.