SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – It’s seem so crazy to even suggest that the San Francisco Giants, down 0-2 in the NL Division Series and facing elimination, have the mighty Chicago Cubs right where they want them.
But in truly a bizarre way, that’s where Giants fans find themselves as the clock winds down to Game 3 Monday night.
It begins with the pitcher taking the mound for the Giants. Madison Bumgarner is no new comer to winner-take-all playoff games and to this point he has been nearly perfect.
He comes into Game 3 with a streak of 23 scoreless innings in winner-take-all playoff games. To put that in some perspective, the next pitcher – Tom Hall — has just 12 scoreless innings back in the 1970s.
But there is also a presence to Bumgarner that is undeniable. Just ask the Kansas City fans who were in the stands for Game 7 of the 2014 World Series when Bumgarner entered the contest from the bullpen and shut down the Royals on the way to the title.
But what makes Bumgarner so good in such pressure packed situations?
The Giants ace says it starts with the first pitch.
“When you start the game, you got to have your best stuff,” he said. “You can’t go out and try to just get by. If you do, chances are it’s not going to work out for you.”
He also says he keeps it real simple.
“Just preparation and work ethic, it’s the best answer I can give you,” Bumgarner said of his pre-game ritual.
But you also can’t do it without a lot of talent. Giants manager Bruce Bochy believes Bumgarner may be among the best post-season pitchers in baseball history.
“It starts with talent,” the Giants skipper said. “Sometimes that gets lost. He’s really, really talented… Like all good or great players, he’s got a tremendous makeup. Mental toughness to go with emotional control – performing under pressure that goes along with great players… With Madison, you look at the whole package.”
A large part of the package is humility. Bumgarner almost cringes when people like Chicago Manager Joe Madden puts him in the company greats like Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax.
“He’s a very humble guy,” Bochy said. “If you look at Madison’s body of work (post-season ERA or 1.94, WHIP of 0.86 and eight playoff wins – four in the World Series), he’s been as good or better than any other pitcher in post-season.”