Coming off a 4-2 loss in Game 3, the Giants didn't have reason to panic. They were still in front in the series, the Rangers still trying to play catch-up. But losses in the World Series have a funny way of shaking a team up, and you can only have so much confidence in handing the ball to a rookie for Game 4.
But if Bruce Bochy and the Giants were uneasy about trusting Madison Bumgarner on the biggest stage, Bumgarner answered all their questions and more by throwing eight shutout innings against a dangerous lineup in one of the league's most hitter-friendly ballparks.
From the beginning, the southpaw Bumgarner shined against a predominantly right-handed lineup. He struck out Vladimir Guerrero all three times that they met. He didn't allow a runner to reach second base until the bottom of the seventh inning. A pair of baserunners were erased by double plays, and he had to pitch around an untimely error by Juan Uribe.
Bumgarner's only 21 years old, but in the biggest start of his life, he had all the composure of a 33 year old veteran. Game score is only one way to measure the quality of a performance - a statistic that assigns a pitcher a grade based on things like strikeouts, walks, and hits allowed - but Bumgarner's Game 4 game score of 80 stands as his highest of the season. In other words, one could say that Bumgarner saved his best start of 2010 for when he needed it the most.
The key for Bumgarner was establishing the inner part of the zone against right-handed hitters. Once he showed that he was able to work inside and comfortable doing it, he was free to throw wherever he wanted, and he had good success pitching to all areas. Remarkably, only six of the pitches that Bumgarner threw righties could be considered 'down the middle'. He stayed away from the happy spots, and that allowed him to avoid the fat part of the bat.
Bumgarner became the second-youngest pitcher in World Series history to spin at least eight scoreless innings, getting beat only by a 20 year old Jim Palmer.
After Jonathan Sanchez struggled in Game 3, the Giants needed their younger lefty to step up. Bumgarner did just that, and he's the biggest reason why the Giants are a win away from a World Series championship.