This World Series could come down to one guy, and one question.
Madison Bumgarner, how many pitches can you make in Game 7?
"Maybe 200," he said.
He did not smile, or laugh, or elaborate. If he is the one man that can stand between the Kansas City Royals and the World Series championship, Bumgarner intends to stand tall, and heaven help the man or manager that stands in his way.
The 2014 season comes down to one game. America's darlings remain alive.
The Royals pummeled the San Francisco Giants, 10-0, on Tuesday, landing a knockout blow by pouring across seven runs in the second inning, an inning in which they got the majority of their 15 hits. Kansas City rookie Yordano Ventura scattered three hits over seven innings.
They could be royals, indeed. In its first postseason appearance since 1985, Kansas City has gone from two outs from elimination in the American League wild-card game to 27 outs from a World Series championship.
Game 7 is Wednesday, with Tim Hudson, backed up by all-October ace Bumgarner, starting for the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie starting for the Royals.
The Giants are 2-0 in the games Bumgarner has started. The earned-run averages of the Giants starters: 0.56 for Bumgarner, 9.19 for everyone else.
Manager Bruce Bochy said he would resist the temptation to start Bumgarner on two days' rest, coming off a complete game.
"This guy is human," Bochy said. "You can't push him that much."
The Giants would be thrilled if Hudson could handle the first time through the Royals order and Bumgarner could take the second turn.
The Giants also would be delighted if Hudson lasted into the third inning, which is more than Jake Peavy could say Tuesday.
Peavy got four outs and gave up five runs and six hits, three of them on broken bats, he said. He retired one of six batters in the second inning, a 34-minute ride that carried the game from suspense to hilarity. The Royals sent 11 men to the plate, getting eight hits, including a Mike Moustakas double tucked neatly inside the first base line and a chopper over the head of shortstop Brandon Crawford and into center field that Eric Hosmer hustled into a double.
Tip the cap to Ventura, who took the mound with a heavy heart. He was a close friend of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, who died in a car crash Sunday.
Ventura struggled only once, walking three consecutive batters with one out in the third inning. Buster Posey promptly swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play. Posey is batting .182 in the World Series, and he has no extra-base hits in 65 at-bats this postseason.
Once Ventura regained his footing, the countdown was on to Game 7.
"Game 7 in the World Series is a gift for everyone," Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said.
The Giants might not have gotten there the way they wanted, but here they are.
"There's not any part of me that's worried about this team having a hangover [from the sloppy loss]," Peavy said. "It's Game 7."
From the first moment Hudson even approaches trouble, the television cameras will pan the visiting bullpen, looking to see whether the Giants' slayer has started to warm up. Bumgarner would not say how many pitches he might realistically expect to throw Wednesday.
"As long as you're getting outs," he said. "I feel like pitch counts are overrated."
Bumgarner last pitched in relief four years ago, but he is not concerned about how long it might take him to get ready in the bullpen.