SAN FRANCISCO – (Wire Service Report) – In describing what the Chicago Cubs are up against Monday night in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, manager Joe Maddon spared no hyperbole.
“I was a Cardinal fan growing up, and seeing Bob Gibson do what he did in the 60s and then Mr. Koufax, what he did. It’s really unique. I hope the kids that are really watching right now understand how good this guy is and how it parallels throughout baseball history, what he’s doing right now,” he said.
This guy of which Maddon speaks is San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who once again is tasked with pitching in a win-or-die environment. That’s something no pitcher of this generation does any better.
In his last three games in which San Francisco had to win or go home, Bumgarner has worked 23 scoreless innings, including Wednesday night’s 3-0 shutout at the New York Mets in the NL Wild Card Game.
The Giants need more of Bumgarner’s nerveless magic, down 2-0 in a best-of-5 series to an opponent that appears to have the edge in just about every category across the board.
For his part, Bumgarner downplayed Maddon’s narrative that he compares to all-time greats like Gibson and Koufax.
“You can’t. As soon as you start buying into that, that’s probably going to take a turn,” Bumgarner said. “I’m just going to go out there and keep going at it the way I have, and whatever happens, happens.”
What’s happened against Chicago in Bumgarner’s career has mostly been good. He’s 8-2 with a 2.25 earned run average in 12 starts, going 2-0 this year with a 1.32 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.
But the Cubs aren’t exactly conceding defeat with their Game 3 starter. Jake Arrieta, last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, won 18 games this year and is 4-2 with a 1.82 ERA in six career starts against San Francisco.
Arrieta was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against the Giants this year, the loss occurring against Bumgarner last month at Wrigley Field.
“There’s going to be a lot of adrenaline flowing,” Arrieta said. “The crowd’s going to provide a lot of that. You just look forward to moments like that.”
While Chicago is a game away from advancing to its second straight NL Championship Series, San Francisco’s nucleus understands what it takes to wipe out a 2-0 deficit.
The Giants started their dramatic 2012 run to a World Series by winning three straight games in Cincinnati after dropping the first two at home in their NLDS.
“This club has a history,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s what you like about what’s going on now, of finding a way to win that game they had to win and moving on. And that experience, that’s so vital to draw on.”
So, too, is the pitcher who baseball fans have come to associate with clutch performances under the game’s brightest lights.
“I know there’s a sense of confidence that goes over the club,” Bochy said of Bumgarner. “He’s such a tough competitor that that’s contagious. I think good players do that. They make the rest of them better.”