ARLINGTON, Texas — Anyone think Madison Bumgarner was going to wilt under World Series pressure?
If so, have you been watching?
Bumgarner stands 6-foot-4 and looks like an old soul. It is hard to believe a birth certificate that shows he turned 21 only three months ago given how easily he dissected the Rangers in Game 4 of the World Series.
Baseball can be cruel for hitters when pitchers know where the ball is going, and Bumgarner seemed to throw just about every one of his 106 pitches where catcher Buster Posey set his glove. He became the fourth different San Francisco starter to allow a maximum of three hits in the Giants' pitching-dominated postseason run, which has them one step away from a championship after a 4-0 victory on Sunday night.
"It's certainly been pitching as advertised," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Those guys pound the strike zone, have good velocity, they can spin the ball, change speeds. They've done a great job. We've got to figure out a way to put some runs on the board."
The Rangers can only hope their ace, Cliff Lee, freshly shaved since losing Game 1, can handle the sometimes suffocating World Series pressure as well as Bumgarner. Their survival depends on Lee reversing his loss to Tim Lincecum in Game 5 on Monday night.
Texas would have been wise to give Lee a crack on three days' rest rather than go with No. 4 starter Tommy Hunter. But Lee has somehow avoided having such responsibility thrust on him in his march toward the free-agent market, where many believe the Yankees or someone else will give him a contract nearly as big as CC Sabathia's seven-year deal.
Washington said he never discussed the possibility of working on short rest with Lee, which raises the question: Why not?
That Bumgarner-Hunter was a mismatch was evident long before Aubrey Huff clubbed an 86-mph fastball 404 feet into the right-field bleachers off him. A team already trailing a best-of-seven series two games to one couldn't afford a disadvantage in Game 4, but the Rangers did that.
Sending a starter out on short rest is a risk worth taking only in desperate situations, and Washington apparently didn't consider this one; or maybe he knew Lee didn't want a chance at three starts in the series. In either case, shame on Texas if it felt it didn't see Bumgarner coming.
"I can't say enough about him," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "A 21-year-old kid on that stage, pitching like that … he had it all working."
Bumgarner was pitching for the fourth time in the playoffs, and the Giants have won every time, including two scoreless innings of relief in the National League Championship Series clincher. This will not surprise his minor-league teammates. They watched him compile a 34-6 record in his quick climb to San Francisco.
"He didn't throw one pitch at the same speed," Washington said. "He moved the ball around. He kept the ball on the ground. He kept his defense engaged. They made some good plays. The kid did a great job."
"This is what you want to do every year," Bumgarner said. "We've got the team to do it, a lot of great guys in the clubhouse."