Wise beyond years, Bumgarner exudes poise
At 21, Giants' unfazed rookie starter fulfilling lofty dreams
ARLINGTON -- Somewhere in the foothills of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains sits a Little League baseball diamond, with a pitcher's mound on which a young Madison Bumgarner once stood.
It was on that mound that Bumgarner's mind, as those of so many little boys do, once wandered. There, he dreamt of donning a big league uniform, of being a star. He imagined what it would be like to take the ball on baseball's biggest stage. He visualized success and notoriety and perfection.
He carried those dreams into the Giants' organization when he became a first-round Draft pick in 2007 and held onto them when he made 14 Triple-A starts to begin this season.
And yet, after a career-defining performance in the Giants' 4-0 Game 4 win over the Rangers on Sunday, Bumgarner readily admitted that at no point between that Little League mound and the one upon which he stepped on Sunday night was that dream ever this good.
"It's what you want to play for," Bumgarner said, following his World Series debut. He stumbled over his words briefly, and then added, "I didn't expect this in my wildest dreams."
How could he?
On a night when Texas was primed to take ownership of the World Series, Bumgarner showcased it all.
He flashed a four-pitch mix of varying speeds, a combination that put a potent Rangers offense off kilter all night. Nerves? Forget about it. After spending the afternoon watching football in a hotel room with his family, Bumgarner made sure he did just about everything but think about the task at hand.
He showed confidence in a rookie catcher, not once shaking him off. He demonstrated poise in an intimidating environment and composure on the biggest night of his life.
In fact, Bumgarner appeared to fall short of showing only one thing in front of 51,920 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Sunday.
That, of course, would be his age.
World class in World Series
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"He has maturity on the mound," first baseman Travis Ishikawa said. "I've never seen anything like it. He pitches like he has been in the big leagues for 15 years."
Try 20. Twenty previous starts, that is.
In start No. 21 of this 21-year-old's budding career, Bumgarner ensured his name will forever be in the company of Bullet Joe Bush, Jim Palmer and Fernando Valenzuela, the only three pitchers ever to earn a World Series victory at a younger age.
This wasn't just a win, though. This was eight frames of dominance against a team that led the Majors in hitting during the regular season.
It took 18 hitters before the Rangers could record a hit out of the infield. It wasn't until the seventh that a Texas runner ever advanced past first. Bumgarner didn't issue a walk after the second and notched the last of his six strikeouts on his 106th and final pitch -- an inside slider to Mitch Moreland -- of the night.
"He's fearless, man," said Aubrey Huff, whose two-run, third-inning blast gave Bumgarner early breathing room. "He came to the yard today and you could see he was just chilling. Nothing really bothers him."
Not a leadoff walk in the first.
"I was relaxed and just happened to throw four balls," Bumgarner said afterward. "I felt fine."
Not facing the potential tying run in the seventh.
"He's a great hitter, so I just wanted to try to make pitches," he nonchalantly explained of his approach against Ian Kinsler.
No, not even the excessive presentation that preceded the bottom of the seventh.
"They could take all the time they want getting off the field," he joked. "It's fine with me."
His teammates point to that demeanor and simply shake their heads. Twenty-one years old, huh?
"He's very mature for his age," fellow starter Matt Cain said. "I would think that anybody in the stands wouldn't sit and look at him as a 21-year-old. He's a big kid, but just the way he carries himself, I think that's the biggest thing. He's very mature."
Bruce Bochy went further.
"He's a man," said the Giants manager. "He had great poise, composure, sense of belonging."
But maybe we all should have had an inkling this was coming.
Bumgarner was, of course, dominant on the road this season, posting a 1.91 ERA in 10 starts anywhere not named AT&T Park. He allowed only five runs in his final 38 regular-season innings and played a critical role in both of San Francisco's previous postseason clinching victories.
As much as they could, those previous postseason appearances prepared him for this stage.
"I've told myself so much that it's starting to become second nature, and it makes it a lot easier on me and the players, I think, to see somebody that's relaxed out there throwing," Bumgarner said. "[I] just keep telling myself to relax."
Admitting that the magnitude of Sunday's victory -- it has his Giants club sitting one win away from a World Series championship -- hadn't yet sunk in, Bumgarner will soon find out how remarkable his outing really was.
At 21 years and 91 days old, Bumgarner became the fifth youngest pitcher to start a World Series game. By the end of the night, he was one of only seven rookies to throw at least six scoreless innings in a World Series game and one of only five to do so in a start of at least eight innings. He owns the distinction, too, of being the youngest of the group.
But befitting his personality, Bumgarner seemed unfazed by it all and mostly unwilling to label this anything more than what it was to him -- simply the 21st start of a promising career.
"Maybe in a week or so, I'll sit back and look at it," he said. "For now, I'll just go get ready for tomorrow."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.