SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Sure, Jake Arrieta and Joe Maddon know all about what Madison Bumgarner has done on the postseason stage in recent years.
Just how good the big lefty has been and his San Francisco Giants, too. They’re 9-0 in elimination games under manager Bruce Bochy, rallying from improbable deficits to win it all three times this decade — every other year, and this is one of those even years.
San Francisco’s October theme this time: “BeliEVEN.”
As the Chicago Cubs arrived Sunday in the Bay Area with a 2-0 NL Division Series lead and a chance to close out the home team, Maddon knows there’s plenty that still must go right tonight for his club to move closer to ending its World Series curse.
“We’d be foolish to be overconfident about this situation,” Maddon said. “They’re really good, they’ve done this before. That is a group that is just dripping with tested veterans and a manager that’s outstanding. So you never take the Giants for granted. Never.”
Maddon found himself reflecting to his youth when Bumgarner’s name was brought up before an on-field workout. The 2014 World Series MVP has thrown 23 straight scoreless innings in the postseason, going 2-0 with a save in elimination games.
“It’s like when I was a kid. I could only relate it to that. I was a Cardinals fan growing up, and seeing Bob Gibson do what he did in the ‘60s and then Mr. (Sandy) Koufax, what he did. So you have to kind of draw the parallels or the comparisons from when you were a kid,” Maddon said.
“So I look at it as, wow, it’s just like what Gibson did, it’s like what Koufax did. And maybe with Whitey Ford and the Yankees prior to that. It’s unique. So 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.
Bumgarner dazzled with a four-hitter last Wednesday in New York as the Giants eliminated the reigning NL champion Mets in the wild-card game. He did the same thing at Pittsburgh two years ago to get that championship run rolling.
Even with all of the accolades and comparisons, Bumgarner just goes about his business ignoring any fanfare.
When told of Maddon’s remarks about Gibson, Ford and Koufax, Bumgarner insisted he never thinks about where he might rank in postseason lore.
“You can’t,” MadBum said. “As soon as you start buying into that it’s probably going to take a turn.”
Arrieta already has said he has no fear about this matchup, giving his respect to Bumgarner while also noting he’s “beatable.”
“He’s been one of the best in the postseason for the last several years. We have got a challenge ahead of us, but we put ourselves in a really good position, obviously taking care of business at home with the opportunity to close the series out in three games and get back to Chicago and prepare,” Arrieta said. “He is tough, but at the same time we have got a pretty potent offense that he has to try and neutralize.”
Trailing in a postseason series or being on the brink of going home for the offseason has hardly seemed to faze Bochy’s teams in recent history. In 2012, the Giants became the first team to win three straight road games in a best-of-five series after dropping the first two in the division series at home to the Reds. San Francisco then rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat St. Louis.
“This club has a history, and that’s what you like about what’s going on now, finding a way to win that game they have to win and moving on,” Bochy said. “That’s experience that’s so vital to draw on. If you don’t have that, you may not have that belief that you can do it. They know they’ve done it.”
As brilliant as Bumgarner might be against the Cubs’ slugging lineup, the Giants must find a way to score runs — or a run if that’s all it takes in a likely pitcher’s duel — to extend their season by at least one more day. Arrieta won 22 games and the NL Cy Young Award in 2015 and another 18 this season.
Both pitchers are capable hitters, adding to the intrigue of Monday’s matchup.
“I feel like we’ll attack each other accordingly,” Arrieta said, “and not take it lightly.”