Giants Own Game 4, Claim Series Stranglehold

November 1, 2010, 3:31 am
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- On the strength of 24 outs recorded by a 21-year-old rookie, the Giants on Sunday moved to within 27 outs of baseball heaven.Left-hander Madison Bumgarner simply dominated the high-octane hosts in Game 4 of the World Series at Rangers Ballpark, leading San Francisco to a 4-0 victory that left them needing but one more triumph to end a championship drought that dates back to 1954.He threw everything he had, he threw it for strikes, and he threw it all the way through the eighth inning. In doing so, he threw a serious wrench into the Rangers plan to irreversibly shift the momentum of the Fall Classic.He had it all going, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy said. I cant say enough about what he did tonight.What Bumgarner did was help quickly erase the memory of the Giants' Game 3 loss. His eight shutout innings all but ensured San Francisco avoided its first two-game losing streak since the final weekend of the regular season. Most important, he gave San Francisco a 3-1 series lead.Only a three-game losing streak -- Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain scheduled to pitch the next two -- can prevent the City by the Bay from celebrating its first World Series title since moving West from New York for the 1958 season, four years after the franchises most recent world title. The Giants havent lost three in a row since late August.Its a good spot to be in, no doubt, said Aubrey Huff, who gave Bumgarner all the offense hed need with a two-run homer in the third inning. But weve still got a lot of work tomorrow. Weve got to go out there and get back to work, act like were down 1-3.Huff hit the huge early homer, Buster Posey hit one late, Andres Torres and Edgar Renteria each had three hits and tag-teamed a big insurance run, and Bumgarner handled the rest of the heavy lifting.In truth, the only thing heavy about Bumgarner are his eyelids. He appears half-asleep much of the time. On Sunday, he made the powerful Rangers offense go nighty-night with eight shutout innings of three-hit work with two walks and six strikeouts.Its the World Series, the biggest game youre ever going to play in, Bumgarner said. I just try to go out there and tell myself its another game.While Bumgarner was busy living up to his reputation for refusing to play the role of overwhelmed and wide-eyed youngster, Texas starter Tommy Hunter essentially lived down to his reputation as a postseason disaster.Hunter, who has yet to see his way past the fifth inning in three postseason starts, was gone after four innings with a line of two runs on five hits and a walk with one strikeout over 83 laborious pitches.Were it not for a diving catch by Josh Hamilton to rob Nate Schierholtz and end the top of the second with runners at the corners, Hunter might not have made it that far.The Giants helped a little, too. Torres opened the game with an infield single and stole second, but Freddy Sanchez grounded out, Huff could do no more than move Torres to third with another groundout, and Posey ended the inning with yet another routine bouncer.Huff, however, more than made up for his part in the aborted rally. Torres opened the third with a double into the right-field corner, and after Sanchez again failed to advance him, grounding out to the left side to end a nine-pitch battle, Huff jumped all over a first-pitch cutter that cut no better than a plastic spork. Watching his drive head down the right-field line, Huff stood at the plate for a moment, banking on body English to keep it fair. And fair it stayed, his first postseason homer landing an announced 404 feet away from the plate for a 2-0 lead that seemed to take the fight right out of the sellout crowd of more than 51,000.Its certainly special, said Huff, a native Texan. In the back of your mind youd like to hit a big homer to put you ahead. Its pretty surreal right now.If Sanchez was a bit of a disappointment at the plate early on, he was anything but a bummer on defense. He ended the bottom of the second with a leaping, snow-cone catch of a liner by Jeff Francoeur, and he was a one-man show in the fourth.Michael Young led off with a shot into shallow right that Sanchez ranged way to his left to flag down with a slide, but a momentary bobble on the glove-to-hand exchange allowed Young to barely beat the throw and give the Rangers their first hit of the game.Hamilton followed with a bouncer the brought Sanchez into the base path, where he alertly tagged Young before twisting and contorting his frame -- Cirque de Soleil scouts would have drooled -- before firing to first. Hamilton beat the throw, but he didnt beat Poseys throw to second with two out; Sanchez was at the bag to field it on a short-hop before swiping a quick tag to Hamiltons forearm, thwarting the attempted base theft. Sanchez also started a 4-6-3 that ended the sixth inning, helping double up the fastest man on the field, Elvis Andrus.I just want to have a positive impact on the game in any way, Sanchez said. Play hard for nine innings like we always do, and something goods probably going to happen.Making the strong throw to get Andrus by a hair was shortstop Renteria, who picked up his third single of the game with one out in the top of the seventh. He raced home on a two-out drive to the wall in right-center by Torres, giving Bumgarner some extra padding for use in his cold-blooded construction of the Rangers deathbed.Its an amazing feeling to be a part of this group of guys, Torres said. Im so blessed to just be here. Everything else is extra.So coolly efficient through the first six innings that he entered the seventh with a pitch count of 73, Bumgarner encountered his only real jam in that seventh, when an error by third baseman Juan Uribe and a two-out single by Nelson Cruz gave the Rangers their first runner in scoring position.As hes done all year with whatever pressure has tried to come his way, Bumgarner shrugged it off and went back to work, calmly getting ahead of Ian Kinsler with an inside fastball before retiring him on a lazy fly ball to left.He didnt throw two pitches the same speed, and he moved the ball around, marveled Rangers manager Ron Washington, who also credited Bumgarner with having a role in the fine defense behind him.He kept the ball on the ground and kept his offense engaged, Washington explained. The kid did a great job tonight. Posey, who teamed with Bumgarner to become the first rookie battery to start a World Series game since Yankees righty Spec Shea and Yogi Berra in 1947, waited until to eighth inning to truly celebrate the occasion. He greeted reliever Darren ODay by belting a 2-2 offering onto the grassy bank beyond the wall in center for his first postseason home run.In Game 3, ODay had coaxed a weak ground ball out of Posey to end a potential rally in the same inning.I tried to treat it like the same situation, Posey said. He won last night, and I got a better pitch to hit tonight.Bumgarner bid an appropriate adieu with a perfect eighth inning that pushed his pitch count to 106, leaving the end-of-game glory to the bullpen hed kept quiet all night.Brian Wilson took the baton and was perfect himself, striking out the final two batters to end a very Happy Halloween for the orange-and-black.We have baseball left, Bochy reminded. We got a heck of a performance out of the kid tonight and some big hits, but theyve got a tough pitcher going tomorrow in lefty Cliff Lee. Right now we still have work ahead of us, and the number we have to get to is win No. 4.