Madison Bumgarner cemented his legacy in the 2014 World Series and likely will go down as his generation's best big-game pitcher. Two years before that fateful performance over the Kansas City Royals, the ace was lost.
Then 23 years old, Bumgarner had given up four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings in Game 2 of the NLDS and dropped the Giants into a two-games-to-none hole against the Cincinnati Reds. Bumgarner came back to kick off the NLCS, but he was knocked out in the fourth and charged with six earned runs in a 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
That stretch is the lone blemish on his historic postseason résumé, and it temporarily knocked Bumgarner out of the rotation. When the Giants needed to win Game 5 in St. Louis, Barry Zito got the ball. Ryan Vogelsong pitched the next one and Matt Cain got Game 7, with Bumgarner sitting for 10 days before starting Game 2 of the World Series.
The young left-hander used that time to work with pitching coach Dave Righetti, finding and fixing a mechanical flaw. He caught his breath and came back with a brilliant performance: 7 scoreless innings, 2 hits and 8 strikeouts.
That win is up against the first game of that World Series in a poll NBC Sports Bay Area is running to determine the latest rebroadcast of a classic game. Would you rather watch Game 1 of the 2012 World Series or Game 2? It seems like it's an easy choice to pick the series opener, mostly because of this ...
Pablo vs Verlander again pic.twitter.com/z0Sc5UHSsT— Carmen Kiew (@carmenkiew) May 23, 2018
But I actually voted for Game 2, a thriller that has been overshadowed by the rest of that series. Bumgarner's performance is fascinating, and it set the stage for future heroics. But mostly, I just think that win was just so representative of what that team was.
Pablo Sandoval's three-homer performance was awesome, but the 2012 Giants were known for their scrappiness, not their power. Game 2 represented them perfectly.
They stayed close when Marco Scutaro came out of nowhere for a relay throw that nailed a stunned Prince Fielder at the plate in the second inning. The Giants took the lead in large part because Gregor Blanco put down a perfect bunt against current Giant Drew Smyly (sidebar: Doug Fister's gutsy performance after getting hit by a liner is massively underrated).
San Francisco scored both runs that night on outs.
The 2012 Giants were a grind-it-out group that refused to give in no matter what had happened the day before, or in Bumgarner's case, the start before. Third base coach Tim Flannery perfectly summed the win up that night as he stood in the hallway of the home clubhouse.
"These guys come out with their slingshots and rocks, and they're going to fight you," he said. "These guys just believe."