Struggling MadBum might not garner next start
Short outing in Game 1 continues trend for Giants hurler, could lead to replacement
SAN FRANCISCO -- He was wearing a camouflage hat during the postgame postmortem, which did nothing to disguise the fact that Madison Bumgarner has a problem. Which means that the Giants also have a problem. Or at least a difficult decision to make.
The left-hander, San Francisco's starter against St. Louis in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on Sunday night, was knocked out in the fourth inning after giving up six runs. Which happens. Except that in his previous start, against Cincinnati in the NL Division Series, he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings. And except that in his last four starts of the regular season, he had a 5.40 ERA.
Bumgarner said he feels great, but admits that his stuff isn't.
"Not very good," he said in the quiet home clubhouse after the 6-4 loss. "That's the way it's been the past few starts. Not a lot of life on the ball. At the same time, you've still got to find a way to make pitches. In cases where you might not be as sharp, you've still got to find a way to make it go where it's supposed to go. I was just missing over the plate a little bit on some of them.
"It just stinks that I gave up too many runs for us to get back in it. I'm having a hard time right now."
Bum-mer of a start
|10/14/2012||NLCS 1||Stl.||8||6||3 2/3|
|10/7/2012||NLDS 2||Cin.||7||4||4 1/3|
|10/20/2010||NLCS 4||Phi.||6||3||4 2/3|
Manager Bruce Bochy hasn't announced his pitching plans beyond Ryan Vogelsong in Game 2 on Monday night, although there's every reason to believe that it will be ace Matt Cain in Wednesday's Game 3 at Busch Stadium. After that, though, all bets are off.
It could be left-hander Barry Zito. It could be right-hander Tim Lincecum, who made his third relief appearance of the postseason on Sunday night. Or one of the two former Cy Young Award winners could start Game 4 and the other could start Game 5, leaving Bumgarner in limbo.
Asked if he expected to make his next start, the 23-year-old, who won 16 games with a 3.37 ERA during the regular season shrugged.
"I don't know," Bumgarner said. "I haven't talked to them. I don't know what they're going to do. I'm sure they'll do whatever's best."
Bochy declined to commit to the hurler when asked about it afterward.
"We'll talk about where Bum's at," Bochy said. "He came out with good stuff, but it dropped a little. He just made some mistakes. But he's one of our guys. He's had a great year and we've seen what this kid's done for us during the season and in the  postseason. But it is something that we'll discuss."
Bumgarner retired the Cardinals in order in the top of the first, but with one out in the second, he gave up a single to Yadier Molina followed by a home run to David Freese. With one out in the fourth, he gave up back-to-back doubles to Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, then a two-out single to Jon Jay and a home run to Carlos Beltran. Bochy had seen enough and brought George Kontos out of the bullpen.
Even when he got two strikes on hitters, Bumgarner had trouble putting them away. He specifically mentioned the hits by Molina and Jay.
"We tried to go fastball up," Bumgarner said. "And it was up, but you know, I guess it wasn't up enough. It didn't have a lot of life, [which normally] could have allowed me to get away with it.
"You've just got to make little adjustments, whatever it might be. If your pitches are not as sharp, start it a little more in or whatever you want to do. You've just got to find a way through it, which I wasn't able to do. You've just got to keep battling and find a way to make the ball go where it's supposed to go. It's been a few starts now where the stuff just hasn't been there like it usually is."
Said Bochy: "We had our guy out there. He just didn't have his good stuff and he made a couple mistakes."
Asked if his confidence has taken a beating, Bumgarner shrugged again.
"You can't feel sorry for yourself," he said. "You've got to keep going out there and fighting and playing for everybody else in here."
Going back to the end of the regular season, Bumgarner has been trying to figure out how to get back to pitching at the level he's accustomed to. He's tried cutting back on some of the work he does between starts. He's convinced the issue isn't mechanical. He insists it's not physical. He just doesn't know.
Which is why the Giants can't say for sure that he'll start again in this series.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.