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.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.