Only thing Royals can do: Tip cap to Bumgarner

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KANSAS CITY — There was no bitterness as Royals hitters talked about the mastery of Madison Bumgarner in this World Series.

Only admiration and respect for a Giants pitcher who delivered one of the most impressive individual performances in postseason history.

“The guy’s a bulldog,” Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said after the Giants’ 3-2 Game 7 victory. “He wants the ball at all costs. He showed up again tonight. We knew they’d probably go to him once they got the lead. They went right to him and he came in and got the job done.”

Everyone figured Bumgarner, on the heels of Sunday’s four-hit shutout, would take the hill in relief at some point Wednesday. But it was expected to be a cameo — a couple of innings that the Royals would have to tolerate like downing a bad spoonful of cough medicine.

[RECAP: Giants beat Royals 3-2 in Game 7]

But upon entering to start the bottom of the fifth, not only did Bumgarner dominate, he did so with efficiency. His low pitch count allowed Giants manager Bruce Bochy to continue sending him out there inning after inning to preserve a one-run lead. By the final out, Bumgarner had delivered five shutout innings and needed just 68 pitches to do it.

It was a foregone conclusion he would end the night clutching the Series Most Valuable Player trophy. The North Carolina native became the seventh player in history to win both the League Championship Series MVP and the World Series MVP.

Royals left fielder Alex Gordon was most impressed with Bumgarner’s cutter, a sentiment echoed by other Kansas City hitters throughout the Fall Classic.

“You think it’s a strike and you swing, and it’s two feet outside,” Gordon said. “All I can say is he’s a great pitcher. He deserves this more than anybody. He pretty much won three games for them. I just give him credit. I didn’t face him until this year. I knew what kind of pitcher he was. I knew he’d be tough. We saw it.”

[RELATED: Bumgarner named World Series MVP]

Bumgarner notched two victories and was credited with a five-inning save in Wednesday’s clincher. He allowed just one earned run in 21 innings for a 0.43 ERA that was the lowest in a single World Series (15 innings minimum) since Sandy Koufax notched a 0.38 mark for the 1965 Dodgers.

For pitchers with at least 25 career World Series innings, Bumgarner’s 0.25 ERA is the lowest of all-time. He’s allowed just one run in 36 innings spread over three Series (2010, 2012 and 2014 — all won by the Giants).

After he logged 117 pitches Sunday, the Royals surely didn’t expect Bumgarner to be able to handle five innings Wednesday. But no one was surprised after seeing how quickly he was buzzing through Kansas City’s lineup, including Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

“For a guy that just pitched three days ago to come back looking like he did (Wednesday), it’s impressive.”

Joe Stiglich is CSNBayArea.com’s A’s Insider. Follow him on Twitter @JoeStiglichCSN.

Nelson Cruz hits 400th career home run

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Twins DH Nelson Cruz hit his 400th career home run, a solo home run in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game against the Royals. The blast padded the Twins’ lead to 8-6, and was also No. 40 on the season for Cruz.

Cruz, 39, is the 57th member of the 400-homer club. He was previously tied with Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline at 399. Cruz has hit 163 of his homers with the Mariners, 157 with the Rangers, and 40 each with the Orioles and Twins.

Cruz entered Sunday batting .300/.383/.624 with 104 RBI in 500 plate appearances. Pretty good production for the Twins from a slugger on a one-year, $14.3 million contract. The Twins hold a $12 million club option for 2020 as well.