KANSAS CITY -- Once Madison Bumgarner entered World Series Game 7, he did not speak to anyone about his workload. When Bumgarner consulted pitching coach Dave Righetti, the two discussed only strategy -- at least until Bumgarner walked off the mound after the eighth. At that point, he needed to do nothing more than glance at Righetti.
"You're in," the pitching coach told him, before Bumgarner nailed down the final three outs of the Giants' 3-2 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night.
Bumgarner's performance -- five shutout innings of two-hit, no-walk, hair-raising ball -- formed the capstone of his World Series MVP Award run. For him, it was glory. For the Giants, it was the end of an intricately designed game plan, the type of unorthodox bullpen management that manager Bruce Bochy has employed so successfully in the past.
Not that the Giants were thinking on the fly. With seven hours to kill before the start of Game 7, Righetti took pen to paper and began scrawling out every combination of relievers that he and Bochy could use. He covered each possible scenario, even the implausible ones, eventually coming up with an overarching formula that worked: Use starter Tim Hudson and left-hander Jeremy Affeldt to get to the fifth, at which point Bumgarner could serve as a bridge to late-inning specialists Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.
With all that written on an index card, Righetti did not fret when Hudson recorded merely five outs. He simply called for Affeldt, whom he had briefed before the game. Affeldt extended his postseason scoreless-innings streak to 22, then turned things over to Bumgarner, who did the rest.
"We were hoping he would bridge the gap to the other relievers who we trust," Righetti said of Bumgarner. "But once he was in, we just went with him."
There was no reason to do otherwise, because there was no tomorrow. Bumgarner was cruising on two days' rest, setting down 14 in a row after a leadoff hit in the fifth. So the Giants simply stuck with him, knowing Romo and Casilla were both available if needed -- the latter eventually did warm up, but never came close to entering the game.
In an all-hands-on-deck, winner-take-all Game 7, the Giants used three pitchers.
"I wasn't thinking about finishing the game or how many innings I was going to go or pitch count," Bumgarner said. "I was just wanting to get outs."
"In fact," Bochy said, "I was staying away from him every inning, because I was hoping he wouldn't go, 'I'm starting to get a little tired.' There's no way I would have taken him out unless he would have told me that. We just got on his horse and rode it."
In reality, Bochy planted the seeds of his strategy early in Game 6, when the Royals jumped out to a 7-0 lead and the Giants -- while not conceding the game entirely -- began plotting for Game 7. They made certain not to use Affeldt, Romo or Casilla, keeping all of them available for multiple innings. They even limited long man Yusmeiro Petit and didn't use Tim Lincecum, should something in Game 7 go awry.
The Giants wound up needing precious little of their depth. Affeldt proved every bit as dominant as Bumgarner, holding the Royals to a single hit over 2 1/3 innings, the longest postseason outing of his career.
As Affeldt put it, "Bochy followed what he said he was going to do, and Bum came through. … If Bochy had told Bum that he was done [after the eighth], I think you would have had two pitchers standing out there in the ninth."
By that point, the Giants needed only one.
"I really feel like this one was bullpen -- and Bumgarner," Affeldt continued, explaining how this championship felt different than the ones in 2010 and '12. "I know this sounds really bad to say, but of all the rings I have, this one really means a lot. It's probably my favorite."