SAN FRANCISCO — Buster Posey was annoyed. Playfully so. The Giants catcher wanted Madison Bumgarner to do more than barely break a smile after a brilliant pitching performance put San Francisco one win from another World Series title.
No way, Buster.
Because in this postseason full of stars and surprises, who knows? Heck, Bumgarner might still have more work to do.
Baseball took its final break Monday before the Giants and Royals settle things. Holding a 3-2 edge, San Francisco will try to claim its third championship in five years Tuesday night when the wild-card matchup resumes at Kauffman Stadium.
The day off gave fans a chance to savor what they’d already seen in the past month, and there was plenty — the success of Bumgarner, Lorenzo Cain and Yusmeiro Petit, the struggles of Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Detroit’s aces, a rack of tight games and one that went 18 innings.
“Clayton who? MadBum!” one man yelled as he exited AT&T Park after the Giants won 5-0 Sunday night.
Could be a lot more cooking in this October oven, too.
Maybe Ned Yost even had it right.
“Oh, man, somewhere inside of me, secretly I had hoped that it would go seven games for the excitement and the thrill of it,” the Kansas City manager said after a loss in Game 4. “Sure looks that way.”
Perhaps it’s only fitting this Fall Classic ends at Kauffman Stadium, a place hosting playoff baseball for the first time in 29 years. The Royals started this pulsating postseason at home with a 9-8 comeback win in 12 innings over Oakland in the AL wild-card game, a thriller that began on the last day of September and nearly stretched into October.
That captivating night in Kansas City set the stage for a month to remember: dramatic finishes, favorites falling and underdogs overachieving, stars slipping and new ones shining.
What happens next is anybody’s guess. After all, the last time Game 6 of the World Series came to Kansas City, one of the most surreal scenes in baseball history unfolded: first base umpire Don Denkinger’s botched call serving as the signature moment of the 1985 World Series won by the Royals over St. Louis.
“We know we can do it,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “We’re a confident group. But we can’t do anything without winning Game 6. We’re excited to get back home where we feed off the fans and that energy.”
Veteran Jake Peavy starts for the Giants against rookie Yordano Ventura — not exactly the matchup many would’ve predicted in April.
But the majors’ most notable names during the regular season — Dodgers ace Kershaw and Angels slugger Trout — flamed out fast in the Division Series. A trio of Cy Young winners didn’t do enough for Detroit. Injuries slowed down former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
Even playoff-proven starter Jon Lester looked lost under October’s bright lights for the one-and-done Athletics. Plus up-and-coming starter Stephen Strasburg showed he still has to polish his postseason poise for the Nationals.
Instead, these playoffs bred a new batch of baseball darlings: Cain and the running Royals, starter-turned-reliever Petit and a pair of blazing bullpens no longer overlooked in the World Series.
Of course, no star has burned brighter than a 25-year-old lefty from North Carolina, the one who peeved Posey with his tempered postgame reaction.
Bumgarner’s dominant performances in Game 1 and Game 5 — not to mention in every previous round of the playoffs — has put San Francisco one win away from another parade down Market Street, something Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and generations of Giants fans had dreamed of for so long.
Now it’s becoming an every-other-year tradition. And if the Giants don’t win Game 6, there’s always a chance Bumgarner could emerge from the bullpen to help out in Game 7.
“It’s not going to be easy at all,” Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said. “It matters that we know that, and I think everybody knows that.”
Royals rookie Brandon Finnegan might understand the topsy-turvy nature of these playoffs better than anyone.
Only four months after he pitched in the College World Series, the 21-year-old reliever got two key outs in the seventh inning as Kansas City won Game 3. A night later, Finnegan failed to bridge the gap to the back end of the bullpen, allowing five runs in an 11-4 loss to San Francisco.
“Baseball can pick you up quickly,” Finnegan said, “and hit you in the gut quickly.”