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San Francisco Giants rookie Madison Bumgarner steals show in World Series Game 4

Rookie Madison Bumgarner rewards the Giants’ confidence in him, pitching eight shutout innings in his Series debut.

Associated Press

Rookie Madison Bumgarner rewards the Giants’ confidence in him, pitching eight shutout innings in his Series debut.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Remember this game. File away this night.

In years to come, you might recall it as the moment you discovered greatness.

For there was something implausibly good about a San Francisco Giants pitcher who seemed inconceivably young.

You may write it off as a single night in a sport with its share of shooting stars, but it will be hard to forget the image of a 21-year-old left-hander making some of the best hitters in the American League look foolish and confused on baseball's grandest stage.

There were two former presidents in the first row for Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night. There were Hall of Famers all around. There were nearly 52,000 people in the bleachers wearing antlers on their shirts and anticipation on their faces.

And yet it was impossible to take your eyes off rookie Madison Bumgarner.

Maybe he doesn't have Stephen Strasburg's hype. Nor does he have David Price's fastball, or Tim Lincecum's hair. But this lug of a country boy has tremendous pitching command and an unnatural set of nerves.

"I can't say enough about that kid," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I mean, a 21-year-old on that stage pitching like that?"

For the record, Bumgarner went eight shutout innings and gave up three measly singles. He struck out Vlad Guerrero three times, and with the help of outstanding defense, had six three-up and three-down innings.

"He didn't throw one pitch at the same speed," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "The kid did a great job."

This was Josh Beckett throwing a shutout against the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, but Beckett was already 23 at the time. This was Bret Saber­hagen throwing a shutout against the Cardinals in 1985, but Saber­hagen was already in his second big-league season.

If you're looking for a pitcher younger than Bumgarner who threw at least eight shutout innings in a World Series game, you have to go back to Hall of Famer Jim Palmer against the Dodgers in 1966.

"He's fearless man," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "Nothing really bothers him. Put some David Allan Coe on the playlist and let him go to town."

Four months ago, Bumgarner was a minor-leaguer with a reputation for having a bad temper. Three months ago, he was a 20-year-old being thrown into a pennant race with the Giants several games behind the Padres.

And now here he is on a warm October night throwing the kind of game we had been waiting to see from Lincecum or Cliff Lee or someone at least old enough not to be carded when the champagne begins to spray.

"I don't think this will sink in until who knows when." Bumgarner said afterward.

There is a temptation to compare him to Price. They're both left-handers, and both were taken in the first 10 picks of the 2007 draft.

In truth, there is little common ground between them.

Price is four years older and had pitched several seasons at Vanderbilt before he was drafted. Price is also a power pitcher, throwing in the high 90s and using more fastballs than almost any starting pitcher in the big leagues this season.

Bumgarner was still a teenager just out of high school when he was drafted. He threw in the 93-94 mph range when he first started in the minors, but he now lives in the 89-91 range.

The Giants were actually hoping Bumgarner would be the No. 5 starter coming out of spring training but were disappointed when his velocity was down and his control was out of whack in March. General manager Brian Sabean essentially said Bumgarner messed up his chance to be a big-leaguer earlier this year by not preparing well enough in the offseason.

After making some mechanical adjustments to his delivery, Bumgarner regained some of his velocity in May and began mowing down Triple-A hitters. In 62 minor-league starts over three seasons, Bumgarner had a 34-6 record and a 2.00 ERA.

There is a southern politeness to Bumgarner, a native of Hickory, N.C. Almost a schoolboy-like demeanor.

It is not a ruse, but it is also not a complete portrait. Bumgarner has an edge to him on the mound. One of his former minor-league managers went so far as to compare him to famed curmudgeon Kevin Brown.

Earlier this summer Bumgarner had a meltdown in the middle of a Triple-A game. He was fined by the Giants and suspended by the Pacific Coast League because several teammates had to restrain him and escort him off the field after he was ejected by an umpire.

The Giants say the growth in him since has been remarkable.

"The way he's handled everything has been so impressive," Bochy said. "He's a special talent. I'm grateful we have him."

And perhaps one day the rest of us will be grateful to have seen him at this age on this stage.

John Romano can be reached at

San Francisco Giants rookie Madison Bumgarner steals show in World Series Game 4 11/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 12:52am]
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