By Richard Cuicchi | October 09, 2016 at 08:52 PM EDT | No Comments
Madison Bumgarner did it again. The left-handed pitcher hurled a complete-game shutout last Tuesday against the New York Mets to win the National League wild-card game, helping the San Francisco Giants advance further into the playoffs. He’s making a habit of this.
This “habit” involves pitching scoreless innings in critical, winner-take-all games for the Giants. With Tuesday’s outing, the 27-year-old has now thrown 23 consecutive innings without giving up a run in post-season games that had implications for winning or going home a loser. His streak started back in 2014, when he threw a 4-hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League wild-card game. Then after winning Games 1 and 5 (with another shutout) against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, he came back on only two days’ rest to finish Game 7 with five scoreless innings in relief, leading the Giants to their third World Series in five years.
Altogether, he has a total of six post-season starts without allowing a run, tying him with Tom Glavine for the most in a post-season career. Among those starts, he has thrown three complete-game shutouts, putting him in the rare company of Mordecai Brown, Whitey Ford, and Josh Beckett as major-league pitchers to have accomplished this. They are surpassed only by Christy Mathewson, who posted four shutouts.
Consequently, Bumgarner’s career to date could convincingly be defined solely by his post-season performances. Including his victory last week against the Mets, he has a won-lost record of 8-3 and 1.94 ERA in 15 post-season appearances, while helping the Giants to three World Series championships and possibly a fourth this year. His post-season performance can be compared to Curt Schilling, who gets serious Hall of Fame consideration largely because of his superior results in that part of his career.
At 6-feet-5 and 250 pounds, the country-boy from North Carolina is a “Paul Bunyan” among today’s pitchers. He has an intimidation factor that is reminiscent of former Hall of Fame pitchers Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson. Bumgarner’s not afraid to stare down opposing players and apparently even umpires. The fiery Bumgarner had an epic episode with home plate umpire Joe West in late September that lasted almost twenty seconds over a controversial call of balls and strikes. No one else could get away with that without getting tossed from the game.
Bumgarner has a couple of contemporaries, Clayton Kershaw and David Price, who are often described as being among the elite pitchers in the game today. Their regular season accomplishments are indeed outstanding, but their post-season performances in big games are pale compared to Bumgarner’s.
Madbum is next expected to face the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. He will have a tall order to repeat his recent wild-card performance against a potent Cubs offense. But if he is successful and the Giants are still in the hunt for a series win, you can bet Bumgarner will make himself available again in a potential Game 4 or 5. That’s just what he does, and he does it pretty darn well.