SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — Madison Bumgarner joked before his last World Series start that the pressure of pitching on baseball’s biggest stage felt similar to his high school championship. After all, he was only 21.
Two years later, the lefty has little room for laughs.
That tends to happened after two terrible postseason starts, getting passed over in the rotation and having his mechanics and fatigue questioned. Bumgarner will get another chance – and perhaps his last this postseason – at redemption when he tries to pitch the Giants to a 2-0 Series lead starting opposite Detroit Tigers right-hander Doug Fister on Thursday night.
“That wasn’t fun at all,” Bumgarner said of his previous start. “But watching everybody fight back and then pick me up, and everybody is picking everybody up right now, that’s what’s special about our team.”
The North Carolina native finished 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in the 2010 postseason, including a Game 4 win at Texas in the World Series when he allowed only three hits in eight innings. He struck out 18 and walked only five in four appearances – three starts – to help the Giants to their first World Series since moving from New York in 1958.
This season, the southpaw won 16 games for the NL West champions but has struggled mightily in the playoffs with an 11.25 ERA. He lasted just 3 2-3 innings in his last start, giving up six earned runs in a 6-4 loss to St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL championship series. Barry Zito took Bumgarner’s spot in Game 5 for the first of three straight San Francisco victories.
Bumgarner’s velocity has decreased slightly in both starts, making his off-speed pitches less deceptive. He spent the extra time working on his mechanics with pitching coach Dave Righetti before games.
Even with his starter’s struggles, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he is confident Bumgarner – who signed a $35.56 million, six-year contract through the 2017 earlier this year – can turn things around against the hard-hitting Tigers.
“He’s done well, and he’s dealt with the adversity that you have to deal with as a player,” Bochy said. “The good ones bounce back. They’re resilient. We certainly feel that way with Madison. I don’t care how good you are, occasionally, you’re going to have to deal with some adversity. But he’s a tough kid. We forget sometimes, he’s only 23 years old, and he’s already done a lot in his career. But he can handle things thrown at him, and he’s a guy that doesn’t get his confidence shaken.
“It may not go well, but he still wants to be out there on the mound,” Bochy said.
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