SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner insisted that he's physically sound after throwing 3,571 pitches this year, most among National League starters. "I feel as good as I did in April," he said after the Giants clinched the National League's second Wild Card berth on Sunday.
However, what the Giants really want is for Bumgarner to feel as good as he does in October.
If that happens, San Francisco should extend its postseason beyond Wednesday's Wild Card Game against the Mets at Citi Field (5 p.m. PT on ESPN). Bumgarner will start that showdown for the Giants against New York's formidable Noah Syndergaard.
"It's two Goliaths going at it, two big guys, and that makes for some good drama," Giants right fielder Hunter Pence said on Tuesday.
That mindset has helped Bumgarner establish himself as one of the sport's top postseason performers. Ever. He owns a cartoonish 0.25 ERA in five World Series appearances, four of them starts. His lone relief outing, of course, was his five-inning scoreless stint in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series at Kansas City that sealed the title for San Francisco and elevated his status from All-Star to legend. In three postseasons overall, Bumgarner is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA in 14 games (12 starts).
The Giants began that 2014 postseason, in which Bumgarner pitched a record 52 2/3 innings, with an 8-0 Wild Card Game triumph at Pittsburgh. Bumgarner pitched a four-hitter, walked one and struck out 10, which didn't surprise the Giants much.
Former reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who retired after last season, recalled lacing up his spikes that night in the PNC Park visitors' clubhouse. From the neighboring dressing stall, Bumgarner watched Affeldt with disdain.
"He looks at me and says, 'What do you think you're doing?' I'm like, 'I'm tying my shoes. I'm getting ready to go to the bullpen.' He said, 'You might as well put your tennis shoes on. You ain't pitching this game.'"
In other words, the bullpen wouldn't be needed. Affeldt recalled that Bumgarner grabbed him immediately after the game and proclaimed, "I told you."
Bumgarner maintains his self-assurance by leaving nothing to chance.
"I think the main thing with Bum is just [that] his preparation is second to none," catcher Buster Posey said. "As soon as his start's over, he's getting ready for the next one. He might not be the guy that's going to be in the video room or analyzing stats necessarily, but you can see the wheels turning in his head and know that he's getting ready for his opponent."
The Giants could use another dominant performance from Bumgarner, who recorded several of them this year. He finished 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA, fourth best in the NL. That improved his career ERA to 2.99, second best among active players. Along those lines, Bumgarner's 1.024 WHIP ranked fourth among NL starters and was the second best of his career. He logged a 1.008 figure last year.
Bumgarner also accumulated 226 2/3 innings, second in the NL to Washington's Max Scherzer (228 1/3), the league's Cy Young Award favorite. Bumgarner's 251 strikeouts were third in the NL and set a single-season franchise record for left-handers. His ratio of 10 strikeouts per nine innings was the best among his seven seasons.
Thus, if Bumgarner meets his usual standards on Wednesday, the Giants should at least be competitive.
"Man, I know this sounds stupid, but it's just like any other game," Bumgarner said. "You can't read into it and try to change what you've been doing."
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.