Thanks to an eight-inning gem in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, Madison Bumgarner is known as a big-game pitcher.
But, after his performance in the 2012 playoffs, it's hard to give him that title.
Bumgarner allowed six earned runs and two home runs in three and two-thirds innings, at AT&T Park, maybe the best pitchers park in the MLB. He was dominant in an 11-pitch first inning, but the wheels came off after that.
San Francisco's bullpen weaved a gem, allowing no hits in five and one-thirds innings. Tim Lincecum twirled two scoreless innings, walking one, striking out one and facing six batters. Jose Mijares, George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla found success, too.
Unfortunately, the young southpaw who earned the start in Game 1 because of his 16 regular season wins couldn't. He is now 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in the postseason, and he is 2-2 with a 4.71 ERA in his postseason career. And, you have to take into account that he got lucky a lot in 2010.
Remember Buster Posey's beautiful tag at home plate in Game 4 of the 2010 NLCS?
Andres Torres' great play to keep Jimmy Rollins at third on a double by Ryan Howard in Game 6 of the NLCS?
Freddy Sanchez' marvelous defense in Game 4 of the World Series?
You should. All of that benefited Bumgarner in 2010, but not in 2012.
The scary thing is that his stuff looked pretty good. He pounded the strike zone, except for when he faced Lance Lynn, fearing that the .060 hitter with one RBI and no homers would take him deep. He walked Lynn, but was careless to postseason heroes Carlos Beltran and David Freese.
Both Beltran and Freese took him deep for 400-plus foot shots. Jon Jay hit an RBI single with two strikes. Pete Kozma hit an RBI double. And by the time it was over, the Giants were down 1-0 in the series, lost another home game and had blown a golden opportunity to win.
I witnessed this in person. If Bumgarner wasn't so careless with the location of his pitches, if he had minimized the damage in the fourth or kept that pitch to Freese in a place where he couldn't have hit it out, the game would have been completely different. There's a great chance the Giants could've won the game, too.
After Bumgarner's eight inning shutout on August 20, his ERA was down at 2.83. It ended at 3.37, and he now has 13 losses on the year, including the playoffs. Barry Zito went 15-8, and he has guided the Giants to wins in his last 12 starts.
The Giants are 3-6 in his last starts, and he is 2-6 in his last eight decisions. The only no-decision in that span was jumpstarted by great offense, and Bumgarner allowed five earned runs in four and one-thirds innings during that start.
Tim Lincecum will probably get the ball in Game 4, leaving Bochy to make a choice for Game 5. He could start Bumgarner and have Zito, who has practically no use in the bullpen, come out of the bullpen, or he could have Bumgarner, who did well in relief during the NLCS, pitch out of the bullpen.
There's no way that Bumgarner deserves to take the ball, with the risk of him being careless with his location or having poor stuff.
Unlike Zito, who has been invaluable as a starter, Bumgarner has use out of the bullpen, so he could pitch an inning or two. He has looked great in the first inning of his starts, pitching two perfect first innings during the playoffs.
Bochy manages differently during the playoffs, so you can expect him to make a change. It's the right thing to do, unless he wants San Francisco watching the Cardinals take part in the World Series.