Before winter comes, one more baseball note, a Red Sox fan’s perspective on Bumgarner:
The most imposing pitching performance I saw before this week was Pedro Martinez against the Indians in the deciding game of the 1999 AL Division Series. Pedro got hurt in the first game of the series, done for the year, we feared. The Red Sox lost the first two games, then won the next two to tie it. Instead of a classic for the last game, we appeared to get a farce, wiffle ball in the back yard, 8-8 already after 3½ innings. And all of a sudden Pedro was there, coming in from the bullpen unexpectedly in the bottom of the 4th. He looked fragile at first, feeling around for pitches, but got an out, then another and another. A second scoreless inning, then a third: still 8-8 after 6, a completely different game. Pedro wasn’t the usual kind of overpowering, just magical: the Indians could not touch him. Troy O’Leary put the Sox up with a three run homer in the top of the 7th. Pedro finished the game, six hitless innings in relief, Sox win. A classic after all.
And now Bumgarner. Not injured, but pitching in Game 7 on two days’ rest after a complete game shutout in Game 5. He came into the game in the 5th inning with the Giants having just gone up 3-2: two parts Pedro, one part Derek Lowe (who won Game 7 in 2004 for the Sox against the Yankees on two days rest: 6 innings, 1 run, the Yanks’ bats totally lifeless). Pedro had dazzled the Indians, Lowe somehow smothered the Yanks, Bumgarner was doing both at once to the marvelous Royals. He made a simple change to the terms of the game: you had been allowed to hit balls hard before, and now you weren’t. When he finished the game, having walked that 3-2 tightrope, in full stride, for the last five innings, the official scorers didn’t know what to do with him. Should he get the win, or the save? How about both? And his daddy loves him.
I love my boys too. I took the older one to his first game last year, Red Sox-Royals at Fenway Park. Buying tickets that spring, I didn’t know it would be the first game back after the marathon bombing, or what the two teams would have in store for us over the next two years. My son fell in love with the Royals’ blue uniforms, and wasn’t happy at all when Nava hit a home run to win the game for the Sox in the bottom of the 8th, and the park roared. By last fall, he had warmed to the Red Sox. This year they were all about backyard wiffle ball, in full role play mode, the older one Ortiz, the younger one Pedroia. My younger son got to his first major league game this year, A’s-Angels out on the west coast, and we learned that the boys look great in A’s hats. We came back east at the end of the summer with new terms for our backyard games: they would be the A’s, I would be the Red Sox. Then the playoffs began, and now the boys were the Royals, Gordon and Cain. Watching the last game of the Series, with my older son cheering loudly for Kansas City, and the younger one for both teams, I couldn’t wait to see who they’ll be when we play wiffle ball in the yard next year.