Who came closest to matching Bumgarner's 2014 postseason?

Who came closest to matching Bumgarner's 2014 postseason?

SAN FRANCISCO — Two years ago, as they drenched the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium in champagne and beer, Giants players and coaches gushed about Madison Bumgarner doing something we’ll never see again. They’re probably right, but as it turns out, Bumgarner himself was sort of on the path to pulling another Bumgarner.

He matched his Wild Card shutout and then gave up seven hits and three runs over five innings in his lone NLDS start, pretty similar to his seven-inning, three-run performance against the Nationals two years prior. Bumgarner likely would have backed Johnny Cueto in a Game 5, putting himself on pace for another heavy October workload.

Of course, the bullpen couldn’t get the Giants back to Chicago. The big lefty ended up throwing just 14 innings, leaving the postseason stage for other aces. Who came closest to matching his 2014 feat? To find the top candidates, all you have to do is look at a historic Game 7 that had a little bit of everything. 

It might be a while before we see another pitcher come as close to Bumgarner’s relief performance as Jon Lester did Wednesday night. The World Series champ threw 55 pitches over three relief innings, getting the ball from Kyle Hendricks to Aroldis Chapman. Lester ended up leading the postseason with 35 2/3 innings and he had a 2.02 ERA across six appearances.

Indians starter Corey Kluber, who made three World Series starts, was right behind Lester at 34 1/3 postseason innings. He put up a 1.83 ERA for a team that had a similar issue to the 2014 Giants. That team needed Bumgarner to do so much because of ineffectiveness from the rest of an aging and fatigued rotation. The Indians needed every bit of Kluber’s magic because of injuries to starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. (Incredibly, they also did all of this without Michael Brantley, who finished third in the MVP voting two seasons ago.)

Lester and Kluber were brilliant, but neither got particularly close to Bumgarner’s 52 2/3 innings from 2014. To be fair, neither World Series team needed to get through the nine innings of a Wild Card Game. Lester and Kluber were also held back in part by the mechanics of a postseason that was unlike anything we've seen in recent years. This was the year of the bullpen, with star relievers carrying heavy loads. Six relievers pitched at least 10 postseason innings, including Kenley Jansen, who made himself millions as a multi-inning weapon, and Cody Allen, who was quietly dominant and saved six of Cleveland’s 10 wins. 

Two former Yankees led the way. Andrew Miller pitched 19 1/3 innings over 10 appearances, striking out 30. Aroldis Chapman threw 97 pitches in the final three games of the World Series, and he pitched 2 2/3 innings in a season-saving Game 5 win that showed how teams in 2016 most closely replicated Bumgarner's 2014. For the most part, it was a tag team effort … 

Kluber + Miller: 53 2/3 innings, 10 earned runs
Lester + Chapman: 51 1/3 innings, 14 earned runs
Bumgarner in 2014: 52 2/3 innings, 6 earned runs

Yeah … we’ll never see that again, but with the way the Giants are currently built, they won’t need another one-man show. The front office learned from that experience and spent the next two years chasing aces who could line up behind Bumgarner, including Lester, who got a home visit from Bruce Bochy, Buster Posey and others late in 2014 but chose the Cubs, where he could be part of such a historic moment. 

That push eventually formed a roster that planned to get through October a different way. Only three pitchers threw more than 110 pitches in a postseason start this season: Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore. In a year where relievers stole the headlines, it wasn't enough. 

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants moved closer to setting their opening day roster on Monday when they made a significant round of cuts to their spring training roster. 

A total of 15 players were reassigned or optioned, bringing the total to 31 players remaining in camp. Many of the players cut Monday entered the spring competing for jobs. 

In the outfield, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater were optioned to Triple-A and Chris Shaw was reassigned to minor league camp. Williamson had a huge spring and was the likeliest of the trio to push for an opening day spot, but he'll start his year in the minors. Steven Duggar was not among the cuts, and he remains an option to make the team, with the Giants also looking at Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker for backup spots. Hernandez and Parker are out of minor league options. 

Tyler Beede was optioned and Andrew Suarez was reassigned to minor league camp, leaving three players vying for the final two rotation spots. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton have been the favorites all along, although both struggled the last time out and Derek Holland has had a strong spring. 

Both backup catchers -- Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez -- were reassigned, along with Orlando Calixte, who saw time in the big leagues last year. Joan Gregorio, Jose Valdez, Justin O'Conner and Kyle Jensen were also reassigned. Chase d'Arnaud, who appeared to be making a strong push, was on the list, too, leaving Josh Rutledge as the only competition for Kelby Tomlinson for the final infield spot. 

Finally, Derek Law and Roberto Gomez were optioned to Triple-A. Josh Osich remains and appears the frontrunner for a bullpen job. Julian Fernandez, the Rule 5 pick, also remains in camp. 

The Giants break camp on Friday.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.