Bumgarner adds to legend with third postseason shutout in Wild Card win
By Chris Haft
NEW YORK -- To say that history repeats itself with Madison Bumgarner would be insulting to him. He's the one creating history, recording it on his own personal continuous loop that seems destined to extend longer and longer.
The Giants left-hander entrenched himself further in postseason lore Wednesday, writing another glorious chapter with his four-hitter in San Francisco's 3-0 victory over the New York Mets in the National League Wild Card Game. It was Bumgarner's third postseason shutout, all coming in a span of eight starts.
The Giants, who advanced to a Division Series showdown against the Chicago Cubs starting Friday (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, FS1), were impressed but not surprised. They don't take Bumgarner's excellence for granted, but at the same time, they've come to expect it.
They know Bumgarner's secret. He takes the same approach to every game he pitches. Achieving excellence under pressure isn't difficult for him, because he perpetually strives for it.
Bumgarner's statistics do -- most notably his October ERA, which keeps shrinking. He's 8-3 with a 1.94 ERA in 15 postseason games, including 13 starts. Tucked within those numbers is a 0.50 ERA in eight postseason appearances (including six starts) on the road.
"He was the same guy he was when he was pitching in April," Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija said. "That's the amazing thing about him. To Bum, this is just another game. Everybody knows it's not. Everybody knows it's not easy. But he's so unflappable."
Said shortstop Brandon Crawford, "He looks like he's pitching just another game to me. He's locked in and he's intense, but he always looks like that."
"The guy keeps his game plan the same, whether we're up, down, Game 163, Game 49," Giants reliever George Kontos said.
Then, Kontos added, when Bumgarner steps on the mound, "he has a different aura."
That aura was evident against the Mets, who were backed by a Citi Field crowd that stood and roared almost nonstop. Throwing a season-high 119 pitches, Bumgarner allowed three runners to reach scoring position. He never exuded the barest hint of lapsing.
"This kind of stamped him as a legend, in my mind," Kontos said.
Bumgarner, who was 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA in the regular season, thrived once again by throwing fastballs at the upper edges of the strike zone.
"It's a tough, tough pitch to handle," catcher Buster Posey said. "I don't think back to too many pitches to right-handed batters that he threw down in the zone tonight. I thought he did a great job later in the game mixing in some breaking balls for strikes to keep them from cheating on the fastball in the zone."
Jarrett Parker was on deck to bat for Bumgarner when Conor Gillaspie hit his decisive three-run homer. Manager Bruce Bochy felt compelled to employ a pinch-hitter, despite Bumgarner's wall-to-wall dominance. After Gillaspie homered, keeping Bumgarner the game was a "no-brainer," in Bochy's words.
The outcome almost made Mets starter Noah Syndergaard a footnote. He and Bumgarner engaged in a classic pitching standoff until Syndergaard disappeared after seven innings, having struck out 10.
"Match him up against somebody else and he might get a win," Crawford said.
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.