ATLANTA -- With the Giants on the verge of clinching a trip to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2002, they're handing the ball to a rookie starter who wasn't even in high school then.
Rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner will try to stick the dagger in the Braves' season Monday in Game 4 at Turner Field. The 21-year-old will be meeting Braves right-hander Derek Lowe, a veteran of pitching on short rest who will be coming back three days after pitching brilliantly in Game 1.
He might be the youngest player on the team and the youngest ever to start a postseason game for the Giants, but manager Bruce Bochy has no hesitation putting Bumgarner in that situation.
"We have all the confidence in the world that Madison will go out there and give us everything he's got," Bochy said after the Giants' thrilling 3-2 win in Game 3. "This kid has no fear. He's a young kid that has a great way about how he handles things. He'll go out there and compete."
The Giants declined to state before Sunday's Game 3 whether it would be Bumgarner or ace Tim Lincecum, who would have been pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his Major League career.
Now that it's officially Bumgarner, the lefty is raring to go in Game 4.
"That's what I was planning on doing the whole time," he said.
After Jonathan Sanchez delivered the Giants' third straight stellar start on the heels of gems by Lincecum and Matt Cain, Bumgarner has a high standard to maintain. But the Giants didn't leave Barry Zito off the roster hoping they wouldn't use Bumgarner -- and Bumgarner plans on going after the Braves aggressively, even if he knows the Giants can fall back to a home Game 5 with Lincecum on the mound.
Key stat: 3-1, 4.40 ERA in 5 starts on three days' rest
Key stat: 1.13 ERA (4 runs in 32 IP) in Sept.
2010: 1 GS, 0-1, 1.69 ERA Career: 22 G (11 GS), 5-6, 3.24 ERA
2010: N/A Career: N/A
At Turner Field
2010: 17 GS, 10-5, 3.72 ERA
Career: 40 GS, 18-11, 3.92 ERA
2010: N/A Career: N/A
Against this opponent
2010: 3 GS, 2-1, 2.16 ERA
Career: 17 GS, 7-5, 3.02 ERA
2010: N/A Career: N/A
Loves to face: Freddy Sanchez (3-for-17) Hates to face: Aaron Rowand (11-for-23)
Loves to face: N/A
Hates to face: N/A
Why he'll win: Postseason vet has done it before
Why he'll win: Competitive rookie hasn't shown fear
Pitcher beware: Not fully rested
Pitcher beware: First postseason start
Bottom line: Savvy veteran
Bottom line: Back on track
"I'm going to try to have the same demeanor no matter what," Bumgarner said after Game 3. "That's definitely a plus, but I'm going to try to go out there and stay the same."
While he'll be facing the most successful home team in the Majors this year, Bumgarner brings in the resume of a road warrior. He was 6-3 with a 1.19 ERA in 10 road starts, far better than his 1-3 mark and 4.60 ERA at AT&T Park.
Bumgarner served as the team's fifth starter after his June callup, and last worked on Sept. 30 -- so he'll be pitching on 10 days' rest, his longest stint without pitching this year. He pitched on six and seven days' rest at various times during the regular season.
Called up to the Majors in June, Bumgarner put together an excellent rookie season, going 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA in 18 starts for the season, including 2-0 with a 1.18 ERA in his last six starts.
Along the way, he impressed another rookie -- catcher Buster Posey, who has a great vantage point on how Bumgarner competes on the mound.
"He's got the ability to pound the zone, move in and out," Posey said. "There's some deception there, so it's hard to get a good solid hack at it sometimes."
At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Bumgarner will provide an imposing presence on the mound, no matter his age. He has learned quickly to pitch more to contact than he did his first professional season, when he struck out 164 batters in 141 2/3 innings in the South Atlantic League.
The Giants' No. 1 pick (10th overall) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Bumgarner's rapid rise to the Majors and success has had to do with top-flight talent but also a good dose of confidence. He became the youngest pitcher to start a game for the Giants since they moved to San Francisco and the fourth-youngest to start a game in the long and storied annals of the franchise when he made his starting debut at 20 years, 38 days on Sept. 8, 2009.
Earlier that year, late in Spring Training, he delivered a three-pitch strikeout of Manny Ramirez that caught the attention not only of the Giants but of the then-Dodgers slugger. "He's nasty," Ramirez said at the time. That was before heading to Class A San Jose, where he needed just five starts before moving up to Double-A -- and then to the Giants in September.
Now that he'll be pitching for them in October, the Giants are the ones with the confidence.
"I think he's got the right personality to go out and get the job done," Posey said.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.