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Giants on the brink of a World Series title

ARLINGTON, November 1, 2010 (AFP) – Madison Bumgarner, the youngest World Series starting pitcher in 29 years, hurled eight scoreless innings on Sunday to lead San Francisco past Texas 4-0 and to the brink of a World Series crown.

The 21-year-old US rookie southpaw struck out six and surrendered only three hits to Major League Baseball’s top-hitting lineup, facing only three batters over the minimum as the Giants seized a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven final.

“I didn’t expect this in my wildest dreams,” Bumgarner said.

Aubrey Huff, from nearby Fort Worth, and Buster Posey hit home runs for the Giants, who can claim their first title since 1954, four years before the team moved from New York, by beating the host Rangers in game five on Monday.

Only six times in 105 prior World Series showdowns has a team rallied from 3-1 down to win the title.

“It’s a good spot to be in, no doubt,” Huff said. “It’s great, but this is the playoffs. Teams are capable of winning three straight. We’ve got to go out there and get to work, act like we’re down 1-3.”

At 91 days past his 21st birthday, Bumgarner was the fourth-youngest pitcher to win a World Series game, the youngest since Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981.

“I can’t say enough about what that kid did. A 21-year-old kid on that stage pitching like that, he had it all working,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

“He had great poise, composure, sense of belonging. He’s a man. The way he has handled everything has been so impressive. He’s a special talent and we are grateful we have him.”

Bumgarner bewitched the Rangers on a Halloween night where former team owner and former US President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“We couldn’t get anything mustered on him,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He threw the ball well. He didn’t throw one pitch at the same speed. He moved the ball around, kept the ball on the ground.

“You have got to tip your hat to that young kid. He did a great job.”

Huff, who wears a red thong under his uniform as a lucky charm, hit a two-run homer off losing pitcher Tommy Hunter in the third inning to help humble his hometown club. He had gone 76 times at bat since September 25 without a homer.

“It’s certainly special. To be able to come back and do something like that, it’s surreal,” Huff said. “Certainly the way Bumgarner was pitching, it looked like it was going to hold up by the fifth inning.”

Texas managed only two hits off Bumgarner in the first six innings and never put a runner on second base in the span, the young ace aided by two double plays and a throw out by Posey on a stolen base attempt.

“I tried not to pay any attention at all to the score,” Bumgarner said. “I just keep telling myself to relax. It makes it easier on me and the players out there to see someone throwing who is relaxed out there.”

The Giants stretched the lead in the seventh when Edgar Renteria singled and scored on an Andres Torres double and Posey created the final margin in the eighth with a solo homer.

Bumgarner and Posey were the first rookie pitcher-catcher combination to start a World Series game since Spec Shea and Yogi Berra for the New York Yankees in the 1947 opener against Brooklyn.

San Francisco ace closing relief pitcher Brian Wilson entered in the ninth inning and retired the Rangers last three batters to complete the victory.

The Giants, who also blanked Texas 9-0 in game two, became the first team since the 1966 Baltimore Orioles to shut out an opponent twice in the same World Series.

“We’ve got to figure out some ways to put some runs on the board against them,” Washington said.

Bumgarner, whose first major league victory came last July, was the first rookie pitcher to start a World Series game since Japan’s Daisuke Matsuzaka hurled a victory for Boston over Colorado in game three of the 2007 Series.

(By Jim Slater)

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