Max Scherzer

World Series Game 7 serves as reminder of Madison Bumgarner's greatness

World Series Game 7 serves as reminder of Madison Bumgarner's greatness

The World Series is going to a Game 7, and both the Astros and Nationals pitching staffs are loaded with starters that both teams should feel comfortable giving the ball to in the winner-take-all game on Wednesday.

But none of them are Madison Bumgarner.

Zack Greinke. Max Scherzer. Gerrit Cole. Stephen Strasburg. Justin Verlander. That's a who's who of future Hall of Fame starters.

But none of them are the best postseason pitcher of all time.

It's not even debatable at this point. When it comes to playoff baseball, there has never been a more clutch pitcher than Bumgarner, as he proved time and time again throughout the Giants' dynasty.

Now, you can be sure that both Houston manager A.J. Hinch and Nationals manager Dave Martinez will have the utmost confidence in Greinke and Scherzer, who are expected to start Game 7 for their respective sides. After all, the two pitchers have combined for four Cy Young awards, 12 All-Star appearances and been worth a combined 125.4 wins above replacement over the course of their careers.

But if you hooked the managers up to a polygraph and asked them if they would rather have their guy or Bumgarner taking the mound Wednesday, they'd either give the correct answer, or the needles would be jumping all over the place.

You don't have to go back any further than the last time MadBum took the ball in a World Series game to confirm his relative superiority.

Exactly five years prior to the Nationals' Game 6 victory on Tuesday, pitching on only one day of rest, Bumgarner came out of the bullpen and threw five scoreless innings to close out San Francisco's Game 7 victory over the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series. It was the culmination of the greatest postseason performance in MLB history, as Bumgarner laid waste to the competition throughout those playoffs, posting a 1.03 ERA with 45 strikeouts over 52.2 dominant innings, including two complete-game shutouts.

To take it a step further, over five career World Series appearances, Bumgarner has an utterly ridiculous 0.25 ERA.

You can't top that.

Both Greinke and Scherzer surely will try, and even if they fall short, that's no knock against them. Rather, it would serve as a reminder of the historical greatness that Bumgarner so often provided to the Giants in their greatest times of need.

Bumgarner will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and while he's not the same pitcher he was throughout the three World Series runs, he proved this season that he still has plenty left in the tank. The Giants aren't the same team they were during those runs, either, but then again, they snuck into the Wild Card Game in 2014, and we know how that turned out.

[RELATED: Giants' 2019 roster churn was historic, but led to keepers]

No one would fault Bumgarner if he decided to leave San Francisco in free agency. He's earned that right, and deserves the chance to showcase his postseason mastery again at some point.

The Giants certainly will try to keep him, just as both the Astros and Nationals gladly would take him for Wednesday if they could.

Giants get dominated by Scherzer, swept by Nationals

Giants get dominated by Scherzer, swept by Nationals

SAN FRANCISCO — About 10 minutes after Max Scherzer’s 100th pitch Wednesday, Bruce Bochy was asked if there were any positives to take from three games with the Nationals. 

“Well …” he said, smiling slightly. “I mean, we’ll have to search.”

Ok, let’s search.

I mean, it could have been worse. Let’s go with that.

Matt Cain left runners in scoring position in his final four frames and George Kontos did it in the seventh. The Nationals left 20 runners on base the past two days, many of them on second and third. So yes, this could have been much worse than it was. That's a positive. 

The third game of the sweep was a 3-1 win for the Nationals, who outscored the Giants 12-4 in three games. Bochy called Cain’s effort gutsy, and it was. He also once again called for more from his hitters. 

“Tonight it’s three runs (for the Nationals),” he said. “You’ve got to score three to four runs on a consistent basis to win in the big leagues, and we’re having a hard time doing that.”

The problems are found up and down the lineup. Bochy noted that this won’t get any better until several players start reaching their potential, and it’s not hard to see who he is talking about. The bench has been awful, but the Giants have gotten much less than they expected from their infielders up the middle and veteran outfielders. The margin for error is razor thin every night, and against Scherzer, this one was just about over when Ryan Zimmerman took Cain deep in the first. 

“Zimmerman has been swinging the bat really well the first two months,” Cain said. “It’s a little unfortunate to make an ok pitch to him, but with the way he’s swinging it’s one he’s not going to miss much. That’s sometimes the difference, especially against a guy like Scherzer. I’m just trying to keep it close and see if we could scratch some runs across.”

They could not. Scherzer gave up one run when Jayson Werth misplayed a two-out fly ball to left. Other than that, he was dominant. He struck out 11.

“We got a break with the RBI double or we probably would have gotten shut out, to be honest,” Bochy said. 

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 3-1 loss to Nationals

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 3-1 loss to Nationals

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — As expected, trying to avoid a sweep with Max Scherzer on the other side proved to be a bad idea. 

Scherzer struck out 11 and went the distance on just 100 pitches, leading the Nationals to a 3-1 win at a very quiet AT&T Park. The Giants lost seven of nine to close out the month, finishing with a 13-16 record in May. They are 11 games under .500. 

Here are five things to know from the night we all wondered if Solomon Thomas can play left field … 

--- The Giants see plenty of Clayton Kershaw, but very little of Scherzer. They’re equally capable of taking control of a game. If it weren’t for a Jayson Werth blunder in left, he would have thrown a Maddux. The double-digit strikeout game was the 54th of his career, the most among active pitchers. 

--- Jeff Samardzija would be proud of Matt Cain’s escapability. A night after Samardzija stranded plenty, Cain gave up just two earned in five innings despite nine Nationals reaching base. After a three-run homer in the first, he left runners in scoring position in his final four innings of work. 

--- Brandon Crawford was charged with an error on Trea Turner’s first-inning grounder, but he had some fun when Turner — the second-fastest player in the NL — hit one up the middle in the seventh. Crawford tried to throw Turner out as he rolled over onto his back. The throw didn’t go very far, but the crowd enjoyed it, and on this night there wasn’t much for the crowd to cheer. 

--- Bruce Bochy said he had no hesitation about using Hunter Strickland, who is still waiting for MLB to rule on his appeal. Strickland pitched the eighth and walked one in a scoreless inning. It was likely his last appearance for about a week; the Giants expect Strickland’s punishment to be finalized before this weekend. 

--- Down in San Jose, Hunter Pence had a single and walk in five innings of his first rehab game. Pence (hamstring) is scheduled to get 15-20 minor league at-bats, but Bochy knows the “I’M READY” text will come far sooner than that.