With the World Series tied at two games apiece, October ace Madison Bumgarner will pitch for the San Francisco Giants against shaky starter James Shields of the Kansas City Royals in a rematch of Game 1 starters.
The winner of Sunday night's game will be one win shy of clinching the championship. Following the game, the teams will pack their bags and head back to Kansas City for Game 6 Tuesday night.
The Giants clawed back from a 4-1 deficit Saturday night to pummel the Royals 11-4 and even the series at 2-2.
Hunter Pence was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Gregor Blanco was productive from the leadoff slot, collecting two hits and scoring three times.
When it came down to it, the Giants decided that having a fully rested Bumgarner starting one game was preferable than trying to send him out twice on short rest.
That decision allowed Ryan Vogelsong to start Game 4 with Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson set to start the final two games if the Series goes seven. Bumgarner would be available in relief in Game 7 if necessary.
"I don't think at this point we should push Madison either," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Then you're going to ask him to go on another three days. So we're keeping things in order because of how well all of our starters have thrown."
A report surfaced during Game 3 on Friday night that Bumgarner told his teammates that he demanded to pitch on short rest for Game 4 for the first time of his career.
Bumgarner forcefully denied the report Saturday and said he just prepared to be ready whenever Bochy needed him.
"It sounds like I'm trying to run the team, which I'm certainly not," he said. "That's no good that that got out there somehow. It doesn't make any sense to me why that would happen. I never said anything to anyone about anything. We knew that was an option, and I'm prepared where I would be ready for Game 4 or 5 or any of them. That's just ridiculous."
Bumgarner is the unquestioned ace on the Giants staff with Matt Cain sidelined by injury and former two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum relegated to the bullpen.
He backed that up by going 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA during the season, but it has been in October when Bumgarner is usually at his best. He allowed one run in seven innings to get the win in Game 1 against Kansas City and is 6-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 11 career postseason appearances
He pitched a four-hit shutout to beat Pittsburgh in the wild-card playoff and went 7 2-3 scoreless innings to win Game 1 of the NLCS against St. Louis.
He has won all three of his career World Series starts, allowing just one run in 22 innings. His 0.41 ERA in the Series is the lowest of any starter with at least 20 innings in the Fall Classic.
Even the heavy workload of 256 innings in the regular and postseason hasn't slowed Bumgarner down this month.
"I feel as good as I've felt all year right now, which is fortunate for me," he said. "It's tough. It usually doesn't work out that way, but for whatever reason, everything started clicking in the last probably two months, and I've been feeling really good."
Shields has been far from his best this postseason with a 1-1 record and a 7.11 ERA, failing to live up to his nickname "Big Game James."
He allowed five runs in three innings in the Game 1 loss and his 5.74 ERA in his postseason career is the sixth highest of all-time.
"Obviously, the last couple starts is not the way I wanted to end up," he said. "But sometimes those things happen, and unfortunately it's right now."
Shields said he was a little too "amped" up in the Game 1 loss and said he needs to do a better job of controlling his emotions.
Manager Ned Yost is confident he can do that.
"I know (tonight) when he steps on that mound, he's going to be ready both physically and mentally to compete and give us his best effort, and that's all I can ask," Yost said.
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