The up and down San Francisco Giants have fought toward generating some resemblance of a playoff-caliber team over the past two months, but nobody has made a bigger impact than staff ace Madison Bumgarner. The southern native and southpaw hurler was at his best yet again on Sunday afternoon, propelling the Giants to a much-needed laugher over the lowly New York Mets.
The Giants are just 18-30 since June 9, but remain in relative good standing in the National League playoff race. After Sunday’s 9-0 win, the Giants took a half-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates for the top spot in the Wild Card standings. For the Giants to be dominant the 2014 MLB playoffs, they need to greatly improve in several key areas, but the head of their starting rotation isn’t a cause for concern.
Bumgarner’s 13th win of the season was one of his best. The hard-throwing left-hander effectively mixed his pitches all afternoon, keeping Mets’ hitters off balance. New York managed just two hits against Bumgarner. That kind of dominance — albeit against a bad team — is exactly what the Giants need in order to cultivate the type of confidence they had after surging to a 42-21 record.
At 60-51, the Giants have encountered both sides of the pendulum otherwise known as a baseball season. They remain three games behind the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers, but aren’t incapable of overtaking their division foe for the NL West crown. Bumgarner is evidence of that. The 25-year-old ace is to the Giants what Clayton Kershaw is to the Dodgers. The Giants expect to win big on days when Bumgarner takes the ball.
The Giants’ two-time All-Star allowed just three baserunners and striking out 10 batters, while tossing a complete game, two-hit shutout against the Mets. It was a prototypical win for the April and May version of the Giants, who have seldom appeared brutally dominant over the past 48 games.
San Francisco is reeling to some extent in the wake of general manager Brian Sabean refusing to pull the trigger on a “bad deal” at the trade deadline, but frantic worries along the shores of McCovey Cove won’t matter if Bumgarner continues to pitch like a Cy Young-worthy pitcher for the remainder of the season.
The Giants are playoff bound because of their star-studded ace. Bumgarner is just that good.