San Francisco Giants

Brian VanderBeek: MadBum carves a niche in history

Fans cheer after San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitched in the eighth inning of Game 5 of baseball's World Series against the Kansas City Royals Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Fans cheer after San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitched in the eighth inning of Game 5 of baseball's World Series against the Kansas City Royals Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) AP

The volume of the chant rose with each pitch.

It started around the 100th windup from Madison Bumgarner, as the San Francisco ace breezed through the bottom of the Kansas City order in the eighth while nursing a 2-0 lead.

From a distant corner of AT&T Park: “MVP! ... MVP!”

But in the ninth inning, after the Giants had scored three runs to command the Royals 5-0, the chant became unanimous, at least among the Giants fans, who were standing and blowing out their vocal cords as if they were seeing their beloveds for the final time this season, which they were.

“MVP! MVP!”

Well, those votes were cast before the playoffs started, and Bumgarner will finish far down the list of worthy players. The individual hardware likely will end up in the trophy case of Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

It’s nothing to fret about, since the Most Valuable Player awards are designed to recognize regular season performance. And in the regular season, Bumgarner was merely great – winning a career-high 18 games.

It’s in the post-season, at the precocious age of 25, where the soft-spoken, small-town North Carolina lefty is in the process of plowing, seeding and harvesting his own legacy.

He’s joined Randy Johnson, Josh Beckett and Orel Hershiser as the only pitchers to ever throw multiple shutouts in the same postseason. In six playoff starts this year, he’s 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA.

And when you talk about pitching in the World Series, Bumgarner stands alone after four career starts in the Fall Classic.

Just two months after being old enough to drink, he threw eight shutout innings in a 2010 victory over Texas, allowing three hits.

Two years later, at an age when most youngsters are scrambling for their first post-college job, he blanked Detroit on two hits over seven innings and celebrated by buying his wife, Ali, a cow for her birthday.

The Royals had the audacity to score an earned run on him on three hits over seven innings of the Giants’ 7-1 victory in Game One, but on Sunday they had no such luck.

In facing only 31 batters, four over the minimum, Bumgarner allowed only one Royal to reach second base, and that was on a mental miscue by left fielder Travis Ishikawa.

He became the first pitcher in World Series history to throw a complete-game shutout with no walks and at least eight strikeouts.

Yes, when you talk about dominating World Series performances, he’s the Marquis de Bum.

Bumgarner has now taken the start in four World Series games and is 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA, allowing 12 hits and five walks to go with 27 strikeouts in 31 innings.

And the list of pitchers through 110 World Series who can match those numbers is less than short. It fails to exist.

“Obviously, that’s pretty special, and it’s very humbling, and I’m blessed to have an opportunity to do that,” Bumgarner said. “But it’s also surprising. I wouldn’t have thought that.”

There are a lot of players in baseball history who are very aware of their place in the game.

When Rickey Henderson broke the career stolen base record, he ripped the base out of the ground and proclaimed himself the “greatest of all time.”

Barry Bonds couldn’t help but live the number 755 as he chased Hank Aaron’s home run record, and Cal Ripken was made aware of his one-a-day chase of Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played about seven years ahead of the moment.

But those were marks set at the end of long, distinguished careers by players already considered all-time greats.

Bumgarner is not there, yet, despite the desire of Giants’ fans to have him pose tomorrow for his Hall of Fame plaque, and he’s relatively new to this level of admiration. It’s obvious he’s not comfortable with the attention, and he definitely does not enjoy talking about himself.

But Giants manager Bruce Bochy has no problem with heaping praise on his ace, especially when asked if Bumgarner is the best World Series pitcher he’s seen.

“Well, for me, yeah,” Bochy said. “In the history of the game there have been some great efforts. Guys have gone three games and things like that. To do what he’s done is pretty historic, I think.”

But wait. There might be a postscript here. As the Series shifts to Kansas City for Tuesday’s Game 6, the Giants still need to win one more game to become the first National League team since the wartime Cardinals of 1942-44-46 to win three World Series in a five-year span.

As it stands now, Bumgarner is not scheduled to pitch again. Jake Peavy will start for San Francisco on Tuesday and if necessary Tim Hudson will go on Wednesday.

Bumgarner will not pitch on Tuesday, but if he’s needed to get a few outs in Game 7, don’t bet against him trotting out to the bullpen.

“He’s going to make himself available, I know,” Bochy said. “He’s already done that the whole postseason after a day off.”

Yes, it would be a shock to see such a prized commodity warming up in the bullpen just three days after completing one of the great pitching performances in World Series history.

But should it happen, Giants’ fans shouldn’t worry and definitely shouldn’t have a cow.

That would be redundant. Bumgarner already has one of those.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or (209) 578-2150. His blog is at www.modbee.com/brianvanderbeek.

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