Cubs face tall task in Bumgarner, try to close out series
SAN FRANCISCO >> 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, rallied 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: "Beli-EVEN."
As the Chicago Cubs arrived Sunday in the Bay Area with a 2-0 NL Division Series lead and chance to close out the home team, Maddon knows there's plenty that still must go right 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."
The Cubs were in for an unexpected treat Sunday: The Blue Angels regularly buzzed by out over the bay during Fleet Week as the Cubs wrapped up their afternoon work, with a few players and coaches stealing a glance up at the blue sky.
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. 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 New York Mets in the wild-card game. He did the same thing at Pittsburgh two years ago to get that championship run rolling.
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 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.
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 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."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.