SAN FRANCISCO – Madison Bumgarner’s spiffy pitching line Thursday does not paint the true picture of his night.
It was a battle for the Giants left-hander, who had lots of Cardinal base runners keeping him company throughout the early innings of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.
Bumgarner endured through eight innings of three-run ball, keeping St. Louis at bay and allowing his teammates to work some more October magic in pulling out a series-clinching 6-3 victory.
As the postgame celebration unfolded, Bumgarner found himself holding the NLCS Most Valuable Player trophy. He is the sixth Giant to win the award, but the franchise’s first pitcher to do so.
In a series where so many players came through in so many different situations, Bumgarner was surprised he was singled out.
“I’m truly thankful and honored for that,” he said. “You can pick anybody. We had so many guys play a big part in every game. I don’t know that I’m 100 percent deserving of it. We’re just excited to be moving on.”
Bumgarner surrendered just five hits and two walks. But it was the danger he avoided, the jams that didn’t mushroom into disaster, that was most impressive.
The Cardinals broke a scoreless tie in the top of the third on Jon Jay’s RBI double. But with runners on second and third with one out, Bumgarner retired Matt Holliday on a fly that was too shallow to score Matt Carpenter from third, then got Jhonny Peralta on a fly out to left to keep it a 1-0 game.
In the fourth, Matt Adams hit a 1-2 breaking ball for a homer and Tony Cruz cleared the left field wall for another solo shot that gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead. But after Cruz’s homer, Bumgarner retired his final 13 hitters from the fourth through the eighth.
Watching from the home dugout, teammate and fellow starter Tim Hudson couldn’t help but be impressed.
“He’s an ace,” the 16-year veteran said of Bumgarner. “He’s a front-line starter you depend on in any situation. He stepped up to the plate tonight. It was a close ballgame. And you gotta give Adam Wainwright credit. He pitched a heck of a ballgame too.”
The Cardinals right-hander, a 20-game winner in the regular season, came in having posted five consecutive winless starts in the playoffs. In two starts this postseason, he’d been touched for eight earned runs over nine innings. But Wainwright did his part to give the Cardinals a chance to force the series back to the Midwest.
Joe Panik’s two-run homer in the third was the only damage the Giants did against Wainwright, who went seven innings, gave up just four hits and struck out seven.
“Once he got out of the game we found a way to score,” Giants right fielder Hunter Pence said. “Not to say anything about the other (Cardinal pitchers), but Wainwright was just special tonight.”
But it was Bumgarner whose effort on the mound helped pave the way to victory for his team.
“Just being out there, you start to find a rhythm,” he said. “You start getting a good feel for what you need to do and how the game’s going. We knew it was gonna be a dogfight tonight.”