By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
After the San Francisco Giants named Madison Bumgarner the starting pitcher for Game Two of the World Series, the question that loomed over the announcement was which Bumgarner was going to show up—the dominant starter or the struggling starter?
Thursday night, the Bumgarner that was able to stop the Detroit Tigers took the mound and led his team to a 2-0 victory.
The playoff road to the 2012 World Series was not as simple during this postseason for the young pitcher.
His other starts in this year’s postseason were in Game Two of the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds and in Game One of the National League Championship Series versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the NLDS, he went 4.1 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits. After pitching just 3.2 innings in the NLCS, Bumgarner was yanked from the game as he allowed six runs on seven walks and eight hits, including two home runs.
His combined ERA in the postseason after those two less-than-stellar starts was at 11.25.
Clearly, something was not right with the 23-year-old. The Giants ended up losing Game One of the NLCS and Bumgarner was sent to the bullpen following that outing. He was skipped on what would have been his regular day to start and has not pitched since the NLCS prior to Thursday’s World Series game.
During those 10 days, he worked with Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti to troubleshoot the issue and make a quick, but effective, fix.
Though he refused to discuss specifics, what it came down to was his mechanics.
“More than anything, it was his delivery,” Giants manager Bochy explained the difference between Bumgarner’s performance Thursday night compared to his previous two starts. “It was a little simpler, more compact, and I think he was able to get the ball where he wanted tonight because of that.”
Righetti worked with lefty and it worked. Bumgarner pitched 7.0 innings of shutout ball, giving up only two hits, while striking out eight batters—a career-high strikeouts in a postseason game.
“I think the only difference was being able to make pitches,” Bumgarner said when comparing his earlier two starts to his World Series outing. “I hadn’t been able to do that this postseason, and tonight, Buster caught a great game, defense did great. They hit some balls hard, and just happened to be in the right spot.”
Bochy mentioned how sometimes it is easy to overlook the face that Bumgarner is young—just 23 years old. In baseball, like most aspects of life and work, there are ups and downs, but there is also room to adjust and evolve. Bumgarner was given that moment to review and he came out successful.
Thursday’s outing was his second World Series appearance. He became only the fifth pitcher in World Series history to start two consecutive games of at least 7.0 scoreless innings with at least six strikeouts.
He didn’t just come back strong from two bad outings, Mad Bum came back with authority.
“Sometimes you get out of sync, whether you’re a hitter or a pitcher, and tonight he was right on with his delivery, his rhythm, and just had a good tempo out there and kept it going,” Bochy said after Game Two. “[He showed] great poise the whole game and just did a tremendous job.”
A tremendous job, indeed. With the win, the Giants head to Detroit to try to win two more and capture the title of World Series Champions.
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.