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Deception to perfection

11/1/2010
Madison Bumgarner's cool appearance mirrored the manner in which he disposed of hitters. Getty Images

Madison Bumgarner had just completed one of the greatest pitching performances by a rookie in World Series history, and the left-hander from Hickory, N.C., sounded as if he were talking about fixing a tractor part. We saw the anxiety and the adrenaline of the World Series overwhelm Derek Holland in Game 2, when Holland threw 13 pitches and 12 of them were outside the strike zone, and Holland's response to the big stage was probably typical.

What is atypical is for a 21-year-old to completely baffle one of the majors' best offensive teams, a continuing trend in this World Series. The Giants have 26 runs in this series, and the Rangers have 26 hits.

They had only three against Bumgarner.

Josh Hamilton explained after the game that when you face Bumgarner, you come to understand how well he hides the ball with his delivery. It's like hitting against a pitching machine because the ball suddenly comes at you without any real warning.

Josh Hamilton explained after the game that when you face Bumgarner, you come to understand how well he hides the ball with his delivery. It's like hitting against a pitching machine because the ball suddenly comes at you without any real warning. "He was amazing," said Bengie Molina, who knows Bumgarner from his days with the Giants.

After the Giants took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning, Bumgarner responded with an eight-pitch inning in the bottom, then needed just 11, 8 and 12 pitches to get through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, respectively. After the Giants hit in the top of the seventh, the "God Bless America" delay meant there was a whopping seven minutes and two seconds before Bumgarner threw his next pitch. And, naturally, it was a strike. He was completely unaffected by the moment, by the bright lights or by the enormity of the stage.

If this series somehow gets to a Game 7 -- and that won't happen unless the Rangers can figure out how to muster more than six hits a game -- Jonathan Sanchez would be the scheduled pitcher for the Giants, if Bruce Bochy kept his rotation in line. But that'll never happen. Sanchez looks completely gassed and exhausted. Bochy's alternative is to start Bumgarner on short rest, and, after the events of Game 4, that would look like a no-brainer.

From Lee Singer of ESPN Stats & Information, how Bumgarner dominated the Rangers:

(A) Bumgarner consistently got ahead of Rangers hitters. He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 batters faced (78 percent), his highest percentage in a start this season. One hitter put the ball in play on the first pitch, meaning Bumgarner went to an 0-1 count to 20 batters. Only 15 of his 106 pitches (14 percent) were thrown when he was behind in the count, the lowest percentage he has thrown in a start.

(B) Beginning with four fastballs -- averaging 94 mph -- to Hamilton in the first, Bumgarner set the tone that he was going to attack Rangers hitters. He threw 32 pitches inside to righties, his most since Aug. 9. Seventeen of those pitches were fastballs -- 12 for strikes -- and the Rangers, surprised at the location, struggled to get the bat off their shoulders. Nine of those 12 strikes were called (75 percent), well above Bumgarner's season average of 38 percent.

(C) When he wasn't coming inside to righties, Bumgarner was keeping the ball down, especially with his off-speed stuff. He threw a season-high 36 non-fastballs down in the zone, recording seven outs, his second most in a start this season.

(D) Bumgarner threw a season-high 25 changeups, smashing his previous high of 18. He used the pitch most often early in the count, to keep hitters looking for his fastball off balance. He threw six changeups on the first pitch (five for strikes) and seven changeups on 0-1 (four for strikes). Overall, hitters finished 1-for-8 against his changeup, the seven outs being the most he has recorded on the pitch all year.

He joined some elite company as one of the youngest pitchers in World Series history to throw eight-plus innings and allow zero runs:

Jim Palmer: 20 years, 356 days in 1966 WS Game 2

Madison Bumgarner: 21-91, 2010 WS Game 4

Chief Bender: 21-158, 1905 WS Game 2

Steve Avery: 21-179, 1991 NLCS Game 2

Steve Avery: 21-185, 1991 NLCS Game 6

Bumgarner gave his wife a bull calf as a wedding present, writes Richard Justice, who doesn't sound as if he's buying it. Hey, where I grew up, a bull calf as a present would cover a wedding and about 25 anniversaries.

He is the oldest 21-year-old, writes Mark Purdy. He turned in a gem, writes Bruce Jenkins.

Here are the youngest starters to win a World Series game:

1913 Joe Bush: 20 years, 316 days

1981 Fernando Valenzuela, 20-356

1966 Jim Palmer, 20-356

2010 Madison Bumgarner, 21-91

1905 Chief Bender, 21-158

1985 Bret Saberhagen, 21-194

1985 Bret Saberhagen, 21-199

1916 Babe Ruth, 21-246

Two rookies have put the Giants on the doorstep of a championship.

Notables

Tommy Hunter shook his head after Game 4, thinking about the at-bats of Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez. "Give them credit," he said. "I don't know how many foul balls [the Giants] hit."

A whole bunch.

Torres and Sanchez combined to see 31 pitches the first two times through the San Francisco lineup, and, among those, 15 resulted in foul balls. After Sanchez's second at-bat, of course, Hunter spun a slider to Aubrey Huff, and the ball flattened out. Huff crushed it for a two-run homer. Hunter wasn't quite ready to draw a direct line from the tough at-bats to the home run he allowed, but Huff did after the game, crediting Torres and Sanchez for wearing on Hunter, whose stuff seemed to regress after his high-stress innings in the first and second.

Sanchez and Edgar Renteria symbolize the Giants, writes Tim Kawakami.

• The baseball gods were not kind to the Rangers in Game 4, as they have not been for most of this series. Hamilton blistered a ground ball that seemed destined for right field in the first inning -- a hit would have given the Rangers two on and one out -- and Sanchez snared the ball, starting a 4-6-3 double play. In Hamilton's second at-bat, he hit a humpback liner back up the middle, and Bumgarner tipped the ball, knocking it right to Sanchez, who got a forceout. Bochy put on a hit-and-run with Renteria at first and Torres at the plate, and, when Torres smoked a long extra-base hit to right-center field, the ball skipped against the top of the wall rather than bouncing over it for a ground-rule double. There were two close plays at first base, and both went against the Rangers. Replay showed that umpire Jeff Kellogg, who has had excellent moments in this postseason, missed each bang-bang call.

Rangers manager Ron Washington, third baseman Michael Young and others were not buying into the notion of bad luck or the possible impact of the blown calls. Young said when you get shut out, the result has a whole lot more to do with the work of the pitcher and what you are doing at the plate than with any disputed calls.

The Giants' defense put on a clinic, John Shea writes.

• Hamilton must come alive, writes Tim Cowlishaw. The Rangers have to find some offense, writes Randy Galloway.

Cliff Lee is looking for a better outing the second time around, writes William Wilkerson. The Giants' rotation seems to be getting better and better.

For Aubrey Huff, this has been home cooking.

Buster Posey is the fifth-youngest catcher to homer in a World Series game:

Yogi Berra, 22 years, 143 days, 1947

Johnny Bench, 22-308, 1970

Bill Delancey, 22-313, 1934

Tim McCarver, 22-362, 1964

Buster Posey, 23-219, 2010

A couple of ex-Presidents were there for the first pitch for the first time.

• Tom Hicks is cheering for the Rangers.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Carl Crawford is going to get extraordinary offers as a free agent this offseason, but if everything is equal (if the Red Sox or the Yankees make the same level of offer as the Angels) do not underestimate the impact of the competitive callus Crawford has built up against Boston and New York in his career. For years, he has been battling the Red Sox and Yankees, and he will need to be persuaded to join them, according to a friend.

2. The commissioner is talking about adding two playoff teams for 2012, which means it's basically a done deal.

3. The Phillies have had a precedent for their Jayson Werth situation, writes Bob Brookover.

4. Not surprisingly, Don Wakamatsu is in position to be the bench coach for Buck Showalter -- if he doesn't get a managerial job.

5. Sandy Alderson has begun the process of picking a manager. Wally Backman could be an amazing fit.

6. Bobby Valentine is a candidate for the Brewers' managerial job.

Other stuff

Armando Galarraga was honored by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

Joey Votto won the Hank Aaron Award, and so did Jose Bautista.

• A second review of the upcoming book on a coaching legend.

And today will be better than yesterday.