Bumgarner gives Giants a performance for the ages


Bumgarner gives Giants a performance for the ages

LOS ANGELES Dave Righetti slipped on his loafers as hedrifted into memories.

You dont see it very often, said the Giants pitchingcoach, after watching Madison Bumgarner outduel Clayton Kershaw in a 2-1victory Monday night.

Sabathia comes to mind from the last 10 years, and you haveyour Guidrys and Carltons, your Vida Blue.

Lefties always admire lefties, especially the rare powerguys. Those pitchers arent trying to trick you or nip at the corners or dowhat keeps left-handers in the game into their 40s. No, these pitchers come atyou straight on, tanks in a demolition derby, sawing off bats, throwingexplosive stuff, daring you to hit it if you can.

Thats what Kershaw did. Thats what Bumgarner did just abit better.

Watching both those guys on the mound was a treat, Giantsleft-hander Javier Lopez said. Of course, I dont think the hitters will tellyou that.


Special? Oh yeah, that was special, said Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan, who had two of the six hits off Kershaw and scored bothruns. Bumgarner threw an unbelievable game. And Kershaw, man, he threw amazingtoo. It was fun to watch.

It was a late-August game in a pennant race, and the winnerwould be guaranteed to end the day in first place.

But it was even more than that.

Know what that was? Righetti said. That was like one ofthose old NL matchups. Until they go out and perform, its just anotherGiants-Dodgers. Then they start pitching and it feels like something else.

Theyre the ones that made us remember. It was cool, realcool.

And Im glad we won.

The Giants have to keep winning this way. Sure, Melky Cabrera is still being spilled all over the tabloids and the offense will have to find a way around thatpsychological morass. Theyll have to score enough runs on a consistent basisto support their pitching staff.

But they must pitch to win. They might be capable of winning6-5, or even 8-3. But its more likely theyll have to win many more 2-1 gamesover the next six weeks. And when they come upon a Kershaw, the Giants willneed a performance to match.

Even though Tim Lincecum hasnt been Tim Lincecum, thebullpen is a committee and the pitching overall has lacked the dominance ofyears past, the Giants do seem to find the big performance when they need it.

Want proof? Kershaw is 1-3 against them this season.

Bumgarner had only faced Kershaw once before in his career.It was April 11 of last season, and the Dodgers bum-rushed him for five runs infive innings. Rod Barajas hit a two-run home run in a four-run fifth.

It was one loss amid an 0-6 beginning hes never forgotten.

This kid weve talked so much about him, Giants managerBruce Bochy said. Hes got such great poise, such great focus. His makeup isoff the charts. One of the moreimpressive years was when he got off to a rough start. A young guy can lose hisconfidence. But it never wavered with him.

Now Bumgarner is more focused than ever about finishing batters.With two strikes, hes got a killer instinct that wasnt always there in thepast. He bounces a slider where he used to try to paint a perfect one. Thatshow hes struck out the most batters in the NL (61) since the All-Star break.Thats how he put away Matt Kemp in the seventh to strand a runner at thirdbase.

That was a big strikeout for me just a big point of thatgame, said Bumgarner, who flexed like a pro wrestler as he walked off themound. I guess I had a little adrenaline.

Said Bochy: It gets back to the focus Im talking about.Hes really concentrating on making a good pitch and not dropping his guardwith two strikes.

All great power pitchers do more than burn out bulbs on the radar gun. They also are able to maintain their stuff tothe last pitch. Bumgarner did that, too. Bochy pushed him into the eighth andlet him throw 123 pitches the second most by a Giant this season (after MattCains 125 pitches in his perfect game June 13).

Bumgarner struck out his final two hitters.

Yeah, his stuff was great, Bochy said. He wasntlaboring. I checked on him. Hes a big, strong boy. Its probably tougher ifyou take him out, to be honest.

It's always a good idea to ask others about Bumgarner because he wontspare many words about himself. He spoke of making sure hes on his game withevery pitch, having a plan and not giving into guys. But his ultimate summaryof Monday's game came out like a bit of country wisdom:

You better pitch better if you want to win.

The last time against Kershaw, perhaps Bumgarner wasntequipped to match up against him. Hes a year older now. And since that 0-6 beginningin 2011, he is 27-14 with a 2.88 ERA in 50 starts.

Oh, and he is allowing 0.82 baserunners per inning since thebreak, too.

Last year I had a little bad luck, Bumgarner said. But Ibelieve you create your own luck, and I created bad luck by throwing pitchesthat were over the plate for guys to hit.

Its just making better pitches and learning how to pitchto different guys. Its knowing what to do with who Im facing. Its justpitching smarter.

Bumgarner has plenty of curve ahead in his learning. Hesonly 23, as of Aug. 1. Kershaw is 24.

There will be plenty more confrontations, plenty more tanksin the derby, plenty more opportunities to transform a pennant-race game into Instagram-coloredmemories.

Does Bumgarner look forward to that?

Well, he said, definitely.

How Cubs beat Kershaw to move on to World Series

How Cubs beat Kershaw to move on to World Series

Two quick runs off the best pitcher on the planet on Saturday night afforded the Cubs exactly what they needed to snap a 71-year-old drought.

Already confident after consecutive offensive outbursts in the previous two games, a two-run first inning against Clayton Kershaw had Cubs hitters in a positive frame of mind.

They rode the surprising rally and a dominant performance by Kyle Hendricks to a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. The win earned the Cubs their first NL pennant since 1945 and on Tuesday night they’ll seek their first World Series title since 1908 when they face the Cleveland Indians in Game 1.

“It’s huge for the confidence, the positive momentum from LA, to carry over back home,” left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “Those were the biggest moments in the game early on to help everybody keep pushing and that we got this thing -- that we’re in charge of the game early. That’s a huge momentum builder.”

The Cubs did a little bit of everything in the first inning against Kershaw, who dominated them for seven scoreless frames in a 1-0 Dodgers victory in Game 2 on Sunday night. Some hitters took a more aggressive approach against the three-time NL Cy Young winner while others remained patient. The one constant throughout the 30-pitch frame was that Cubs hitters took advantage whenever Kershaw made a mistake.


MLB becomes whole new ballgame since Cubs last World Series trip


MLB becomes whole new ballgame since Cubs last World Series trip

One way to realize just how long it's been since the Chicago Cubs last reached the World Series is to look at how much the game has changed since then, on and off the field.

The Cubs are making their first appearance since 1945 and chasing their first title since 1908.

Some of the ways the game has changed since the Cubs lost Game 7 to the Detroit Tigers some 71 years ago:

INTEGRATION: Jackie Robinson became the first black player to reach the major leagues in 1947, two years after the Cubs' last World Series appearance. Baseball has turned into a virtual melting pot in the seven decades since. The Cubs' roster includes players from Cuba (reliever Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Jorge Soler), along with Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, as well as the United States.

EXPANSION: There were 16 teams in the majors in 1945, including two in St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago, and three in New York. The total is up to 30 now.

GO WEST: There were no major league franchises west of St. Louis in 1945. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the New York Giants headed to San Francisco in 1958. In 1969, the Seattle Pilots showed up - they went 64-98 in their first year, then became the Milwaukee Brewers.

DIVISIONAL PLAY: There were no divisions in 1945, just eight teams in both the American League and National League. They split into East and West divisions in 1969. Then a Central was created in 1994, with the Cubs shifting from the NL East to the NL Central.

PLAYOFFS PLUS: Extra teams and divisions resulted in expanded playoffs. The League Championship Series began in 1969, the Division Series started in 1995 and a one-game wild-card playoff came in 2012. A longer postseason pushed the World Series deep into October and beyond. If the Cubs and Cleveland go the distance this year, Game 7 would be on Nov. 2.

FREE AGENCY: When Phil Cavarretta and Peanuts Lowrey helped lead the Cubs to the 1945 Series, they were bound to the team until they were traded or released. Curt Flood tested baseball's reserve clause in the early 1970s and took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, helping pave the way for players to move around as free agents. Jon Lester, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist are among the players the Cubs acquired this way.

DESIGNATED HITTER: The designated hitter joined the American League lineup in 1973. The DH debate is still hot, with the leagues playing by different rules. When this year's World Series opens at the AL park, both teams will use the DH; when the Cubs host, the pitchers will hit.

LIGHTS AT WRIGLEY: The Cubs were the last team in the majors to play only day games. That changed when lights were installed at Wrigley Field in 1988. The games there have always been played outdoors on green grass, never under a dome or on artificial turf, trends that became popular starting with the Astrodome in the mid-1960s.