How could Giants' bullpen possibly be better? Add Bumgarner to mix

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Madison Bumgarner is not starting Game 6 for the Giants.

You already knew that, of course, but we figured we’d start this off with a bit of good news for the Royals and their fans. Bumgarner has been incredible in his two starts — he has an 0.56 ERA and has only allowed seven hits and one walk in 16 innings — in the World Series against Ned Yost’s team.

Folks in Kansas City are quick to point out their team is 2-1 in the Fall Classic when someone other than Bumgarner starts for the Giants. That’s a good point. Down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, the Royals will need to up that record to 4-1 if they’re going to claim their first World Series title since 1985.

Now, the less-good news for the Royals and their fans: They probably haven’t seen the last of San Francisco’s ace. Giants manager Bruce Bochy offered up an interesting tidbit of information during Monday’s off-day press conference. 

“In fact, tomorrow (referring to Tuesday), there are times when he’s taken his bullpen on that day,” Bochy said. “That’s who he is. He’s going to say, ‘Hey, if you need me at any point tomorrow, please use me.’ He’s done that before. He really bounces back well.”

So, there you have it. Not only did Bochy not shut the door on Bumgarner possibly appearing in Game 7, but Game 6 is a possibility, too. Not for a long stretch, of course. This isn’t a piggy-back situation, where if either Jake Peavy (San Francisco’s Game 6 starter) or Tim Hudson (the Game 7 hurler) gets rocked early, Bumgarner will be ready to go three or four innings. He’s a great pitcher, but he’s not Superman.

The extended-relief role belongs to Yusmeiro Petit — who has thrown 12 Supermanesque scoreless innings in October covering three relief appearances — or Tim Lincecum.

If Bochy gets into a situation where he needs a few outs, though, he’ll have Bumgarner as an option. He won’t be the only good option, or course. Only two of the Giants’ eight World Series relievers have allowed a run against the Royals; in 14 2/3 innings, those eight relievers have issued a total of one walk to Kansas City hitters.

Now, to be fair, the Royals don't have an offense that racks up the walks. They drew fewer walks than any other team in the majors this year, but that’s still impressive work by the Giants’ relief crew. Adding Bumgarner for a few outs — and Bochy mentioned starter Ryan Vogelsong could be available, too — makes the group even more formidable. 

“We do things a little different, how we work our bullpen,” Bochy said. “Not quite as structured. But when you look at the guys down there, (Santiago) Casilla, (Sergio) Romo, our left-handers (Jeremy) Affeldt and (Javier) Lopez, they give you some weapons that you use at different times.”

And because Bumgarner threw the first World Series complete-game shutout in more than a decade in Game 5, all of those Giants relievers are full strength. So after a long, grinding month to get within one win of a third World Series title in five years, Bochy’s group of stellar relievers is as rested and ready to go as they’ve been all year.

Turns out, all the folks who predicted the World Series might be decided by the bullpen could actually be correct.

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