The Giants have won nine consecutive elimination games. Madison Bumgarner has pitched 23 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason and the Giants haven’t lost a postseason game with their ace on the mound since Game 3 of the 2014 NLDS.
Despite the Cubs’ 2-0 NLDS series lead, the mythical patterns through which we predict the fate of an otherwise sputtering team lean heavy in the Giants’ favor on this particular Monday night.
San Francisco needs to win three straight to eliminate the best team in baseball, one that’s shouldering 108 years of postseason failure as they lumber through a redemption round.
History is keeping hope alive in San Francisco. The Giants overcame a two-game deficit against the Cincinnati Reds in the and a 3-1 deficit against the St. Louis Cardinals en route to their 2012 World Series sweep.
Thirteen guys from that 2012 club have rolled over to the 2016 roster. Bruce Bochy knows the motivation, the belief, is still fresh on their minds:
“You should be drawing all your past experiences and it makes them feel like it can be done. It’s not as big a climb as it seems…It gives them that sense of belief that, you know what, this can be done.”
Bochy and this team knows that it can take one game for momentum to shift its course. In 2012, with their backs against the wall, the Giants had stone-cold Ryan Vogelsong pitch five innings of one run ball before the bullpen closed it out with four shutout innings. The Giants pulled it out 2-1 and won the final two games in dominant fashion.
But 2016 feels different than 2012. Hunter Pence has subdued The Reverend inside him, relying, apparently, on one-on-one talks with his teammates to get the gears going.
The Giants are up against fate, proving they are a team worthy of a shot at a fourth title in seven years over a team who hasn’t even seen the World Series stage in 70 years. The pressure for the Giants to win another title in an even year doesn’t phase this team, said Bochy:
“We have heard this all year, really, going back to FanFest. And it’s a great battle cry, but no, we’re not putting pressure on ourselves because it’s an even year. We don’t think we’re going to win the World Series every even year.”
Lifted pressure, mellow expectations might mold a team hobbling on it’s last limb into a contender.
Bruce Bochy, numbed by the lavish first half and disastrous second, laughed through the Dodgers’ sweep that sent them to the Wild Card game. This team only wins when they have to, he chuckled.
Monday, they have to win.
They have to like their chances, too, with Bumgarner on the mound — a man catapulted into the “best ever” talks after his third postseason winner-take-all complete game shutout slammed the door on the New York Mets.
“He’s going to be in the zone, he’s going to be aggressive with his stuff … but just I like watching Bum pitch because you can see the intent behind every pitch. He’s a very convicted man out there. it’s not something that you see every day.”
Jake Arrieta is beatable, despite his demeanor, his Cy Young, his 18 wins. He has a 3.10 ERA on the year spiked by a rough September (4.60 ERA). He hasn’t pitched in a game in 12 days.
The Giants know better than anyone that players flip a switch in the postseason. Bochy isn’t taking too much stock in a potential Arrieta collapse:
“In a game like this, you just expect to see the guy that you normally would see. With added rest, it benefits some pitchers; some are a little rusty. It’s hard to say.”
All they need is a momentum swing, and Bumgarner is this team’s best bet to spark it.