SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants headed home Sunday morning with their backs against the wall, down 2-0 in the National League Division Series against the Cubs. The good news? They're handing the ball to an October legend with their season on the line, same as they did Wednesday night at
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants headed home Sunday morning with their backs against the wall, down 2-0 in the National League Division Series against the Cubs. The good news? They're handing the ball to an October legend with their season on the line, same as they did Wednesday night at Citi Field.
Madison Bumgarner will take his unprecedented track record of October success with him to the mound as he starts Game 3 against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs at AT&T Park on Monday night (9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT, FS1). The Giants have won nine straight elimination games in the postseason, the longest streak in playoff history. That run began with the Giants in a similar position four years ago: trailing the Reds, two games to none, in the NLDS.
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"You look at Madison's body of work, he's been as good -- and I think better than -- any other pitcher in postseason," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's pretty incredible what he's accomplished."
Bumgarner is coming off another dominant postseason performance, as he shut out the Mets with a four-hit gem in the NL Wild Card Game on Wednesday. The outing stretched his streak of scoreless postseason innings to 23 and only enhanced his October folk-hero status. But here he is again, preparing to pitch with all the Giants' hopes on his shoulders.
"The thing is, when you come in for games like [Monday] and games like the Wild Card Game, you have to have your stuff, you have to have your best stuff," said Bumgarner, calm as ever, in a news conference on Sunday afternoon. "You can't go out there and just try to get by. Chances are it's not going to work out for you."
The only time since the 2012 NL Championship Series that the Giants lost a postseason game in which Bumgarner pitched was Game 3 of the 2014 NLDS, when he allowed two earned runs in seven innings but lost to the Nationals. Since then, Bumgarner is 4-0 with a save and a 0.79 ERA in 45 2/3 innings over six appearances.
Overall, the 27-year-old left-hander is 8-3 with a 1.94 ERA in 15 postseason games; San Francisco is 12-3 when he touches the ball in October. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of his past eight postseason starts dating back to the 2012 World Series, and three of those were shutouts.
In search of a comparison for Bumgarner's postseason heroics, Cubs manager Joe Maddon hearkened back to his youth. The first three names he mentioned? A trio of Hall of Famers: Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Whitey Ford.
"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," Maddon said.
Bumgarner hears the superlatives -- it's hard not to -- and appreciates the praise. But he's not getting caught up in his own success, not while there's still a game to pitch and a season on the line.
"You can't. As soon as you start buying into that, that's probably going to take a turn," Bumgarner said. "I'm just going to go out there and keep going at it the way I have, and whatever happens, happens."
Adam Berry has covered baseball for MLB.com since 2011.