SAN FRANCISCO – Madison Bumgarmer doesn’t wow with supreme, overpowering stuff as much as, when he’s on, picks apart hitters with supremely well-located pitches – and a nice assortment at that.
The Giants left-hander, who dauntingly stands between the Cubs and a three-game sweep of the National League Division Series, has been nothing less than magnificent in postseason play.
So good, in fact, with 23 consecutive scoreless innings going into Game 3 on Monday night at AT&T Park and a 1.94 ERA over 97 1/3 innings, that Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Giants manager Bruce Bochy compared him to Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Whitey Ford.
“It’s unique,’’ Maddon said. “I hope the kids that are really watching right now understand how good this guy is and how it parallels throughout baseball history, what he’s doing right now.’’
But here’s what sets Bumgarner apart from his comtemporaries: The way he competes.
“It’s not just purely his stuff; it’s his competitive nature,’’ Maddon said. “That’s what gets lost in this a lot with what we do. Everybody’s always analyzing numbers and pitches and how he does this and spin rotation and whatever. This guy competes. That’s what sets him apart. It’s not that his stuff is that special, it’s really good, but how he competes is what sets him apart.’’
Former Sox Conor Gillaspie mentioned Bumgarner’s competitiveness away from baseball after the left-hander shut out the Mets in the NL Wild Card game Wednesday. Maddon talked about it Monday. If we heard him right, he was saying there’s actually something to what Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson says about “the will to win.”
“If kids are watching this and really want to understand how to get good,’’ Maddon said, “you compete, and you compete every pitch. And that’s why he’s as good as he is.’’
Giants manager Bruce Bochy agrees with Maddon about the class of company Bumgarner, the 2014 World Series MVP, keeps.
“Those names mentioned are great names; you look at Madison’s body of work he’s been as good and better than any pitcher in the postseason,’’ Bochy said. “That’s how good he’s been.’’
Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) shrugs those comparisons off because “as soon as you start buying into that, it’s probably going to take a turn,” he said.
His focus now is planning how to attack each Cubs hitter, something he’s had good success with with an 8-2 record and 2.25 ERA over 12 lifetime starts against the Cubs, including 2-0 and 1.32 this season.
“They have a good all-around team up and down the lineup,’’ he said.
Featuring a low-90s fourseam fastball, cut fastball, curve and change, Bumgarner throws across his body, which creates deception. He works both sides of the plate, as well as the top and bottom portions of the strike zone.
He’ll bring some fight to this do-or-die game, but he knows he’ll need more.
“When you come in for games like (Monday) and Wild Card games, you have to have your best stuff,’’ he said.
Bumgarner always seems to have it in October. In his last nine postseason games, his ERA is 0.79. The Giants need more of the same or else.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk [among teammates] because everybody knows what kind of spot we’re in,’’ he said. “Only thing we can do is come in and win [Monday]. That’s it. Win or go home.’’