After winning a 1-0 pitchers duel in game one, and seeing the pitchers win game two by knocking in three runs for a 5-2 victory, the Chicago Cubs head to San Francisco with a 2-0 National League Divisional Series lead for a challenge.
Many people said that the San Francisco Giants would be the Cubs toughest challenge in the National League playoffs. Monday night they get ready to face the Giants best pitcher, and someone who might well be best playoff pitcher in the game at the moment. When the page turns to Bumgarner, you need to remember a few things about him. First, he is one hell of a pitcher, especially in the playoffs.
Over the course of his playoff career, Madison Bumgarner has a career record of 8-3 with a save, while in his starts the Giants have a record of 12-3. He has a career playoff ERA of 1.94 with a .863 WHIP and a strike out to walk ratio of 83-17. He has allowed 21 earned runs in 97.1 innings. The man is as close to untouchable in the playoffs, and is currently riding a 23 inning scoreless streak in the playoffs. The Giants will need MadBum to be on his game if they want to have any chance of winning this game and staying alive in the NLDS. With the Giants offense not showing up in the first two games of the series (being out scored 6-2 in the first two games) he will need to limit the damage caused by the Cubs at all cost.
However, all things must come to an end and streaks are meant to be broken. His scoreless innings streak in the playoffs could very well come to an end Monday night as he has to face a potent offense. To say Bumgarner is in trouble when he faces this team might be a bit of a stretch as he is one hell of a competitor. As you saw by his stats in the post season, he and the Giants have a very good record in his starts. They have also won every elimination game they have been in the past several trips to the postseason. But again, streaks are meant to be broken. If the Cubs want to end this thing in three games, they will have to break both, or simply out last Bumgarner in yet another pitchers duel as Jake Arrieta will look to match him pitch for pitch.
Bumgarner’s pitching arm is not the only challenge the Cubs will need to overcome though, he is also one hell of a hitter. Travis Wood‘s blast last night aside, Bumgarner may well be the best hitting pitcher in the game today. His talent with the bat is so good, that when the Giants traveled to play the Anaheim Angels in an interleague game, he hit for himself instead of the Giants using a designated hitter. The Cubs have a great hitting pitching staff as we saw last night, but Bumbarner is better than all. He has a career batting average of .183 with 14 homeruns and 49 RBI. He is no slouch with the bat, and will not be an easy out as pitchers usually are.
The good news is, the Cubs have faced Bumgarner twice this year and have scored off of him. The bad news is that in both starts against the Cubs he has only allowed a total of two runs in his 13.2 innings pitched. His first start in San Francisco was a gem, he lasted 7.2 innings and threw shutout ball. The second start however, he only lasted six innings while giving up two runs. The Cubs might have figured out something about him down the stretch, though that was not enough to walk away with the victory. In game three, who knows, this offense might break out on him and seal the Giants fate.
On the other side, the Cubs will be countering with Arrieta, who has also faced the Giants twice. His stats against them this season were very good, though not quite as good as his counterpart. Against the Giants this year, Arrieta has a record of 1-1 allowing four runs (three earned) in 13 innings. I have no doubt that Arrieta will be able to match Bumgarner pitch for pitch and turn game three into just as good of a pitchers duel (if not better) than game one.
Arrieta is no slouch with the bat either. His career batting average of .188 is slightly better than Bumgarner, though in the power category he trails 14 homers to four. That said, Arrieta will not be an easy out behind the plate either. He will just add to what is already an impressive offensive lineup that the Cubs will roll out. I am going to go ahead and assume that the lineup will pretty much remain the same as the first two games, except for the switching of the catchers and pitchers.
As you know, Joe Maddon carried three catchers on the NLDS roster, and likely will continue for all rounds. Miguel Montero who seemingly found new life in September was kept on pretty much for Arrieta who is more comfortable with a veteran behind the plate. Montero was behind the plate for Arrieta in his first game against the Giants when he pitched seven innings of four hit, one run ball.
Monday night’s game with the Giants will be a rematch of the September 3 game when Arrieta and Bumbarner faced off. Both pitchers pitched well that day. MadBum gave up five hits and two runs in his six innings of work, Arrieta gave up four hits and three runs (two earned) in his six innings of work. The Cubs would go on to lose that game 3-2.
Regardless of past performances this season against the other club, Monday night’s game will be one to watch for sure. Both pitchers are great at what they do. With Bumgarner pitching for his playoff life, and Arrieta looking to seal the deal and bring the Cubs to the National League Championship series, you can bet that all bets will be off. All the pressure for this game will be on the Giants, and all hands will be on deck for them. I am not sure either fan base would change who they have on the mound for this game.