KANSAS CITY Missouri (Reuters) - While Madison Bumgarner has won justifiable praise for his dominant World Series pitching, teammates Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence have come up big for the San Francisco Giants with their bats.
The twin forces have not only impacted games with hits, but also with their infectious enthusiasm.
Sandoval, the Giants’ World Series Most Valuable Player in their 2012 drive to the title, has again been a force in the clutch.
The roly-poly third baseman, nicknamed “Kung Fu Panda” for his shape and athletic prowess, showed his grit in San Francisco’s Game Four win when he stroked a go-ahead, two-run single despite needing an IV before the game after getting nauseous from a stomach flu.
The 28-year-old Venezuelan followed that up with two hits and two runs scored the next night to put the Giants on the brink of their World Series title in five years.
”He’s right up there with some of the great players I’ve had, the great talents,“ Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Sandoval. ”I think good players, great players have a way of rising to the occasion, and he’s one of those players.
“I think one reason is how much he loves being out there. He loves this stage. He loves baseball. He has that enthusiasm, that infectious laugh when he’s out there. He’s a very loose guy that has a lot of fun playing.”
Wide-eyed right-fielder Pence shows his love for the game with a dazzling intensity he pours into every moment on the field.
Pence, who came to the Giants in a midseason trade with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012, has become one of the team leaders, entrusted with giving empassioned pre-game pep talks and backing them up with full-bore effort.
The 31-year-old Pence has made his mark on the series with a string of sliding catches, exhilarating baserunning and a batting average of nearly .500.
”I’ve had other managers tell me they love watching him,“ said Bochy, who shares the feeling. ”They appreciate the way he plays. (He is) a guy that comes out to play every day, 100 percent in everything he does.
“That’s why we call him ‘full Throttle.'”
As far as being inspirational, Bochy said of the sometimes gawky Pence: ”He’s unique. He’s entertaining on how he does things. But he has a big heart, very passionate about the game.
“He’s a guy that I would pay to watch play because of his effort every day. He’s tireless, and he cares about the game, about winning, and he really cares about his teammates.”
Editing by Frank Pingue