A lot of what went wrong tonight was out of Madison Bumgarner's control. He may have suspected that Xavier Nady's outfield defense credentials were suspect, but he was powerless as he watched Xavier lumber towards a sharp ground ball Chris Denorfia hit into the left field corner in the bottom of the first inning that wound up a triple. He was powerless as he watched his catcher Buster Posey's perfect throw deflect off of Marco Scutaro's glove on a stolen base attempt that would've been an out. Instead, Chase Headley wound up at third base and would eventually score on a sacrifice fly.
And Madison Bumgarner certainly had no control over what was and was not called a strike or the degree to which his bad pitches were clobbered by the bats of Chase Headley and Jesus Guzman.
He does have control of his emotions, presumably, and it is the mental aspect that will be key going forward. See, it's not the worst thing in the world that Madison Bumgarner's season has sort of soft landed, it's how he regroups that's important. It matters more how Bruce Bochy decides to use him in the playoffs. His home/road splits are worth raising an eyebrow over and the thought of him starting a game in Cincinnati would even terrify the rubber off that creepy character in American Horror Story. He'll probably get the game two start at AT&T on Sunday (which looks more and more probable given the number of games the Giants trail the Reds in the win column) and that should be fine, provided Madison gets it together.
He was frustrated. He was angry. These emotions had to have affected him. It's the end of a long season. Grant pointed out how his mechanics seem to have ever so slightly diminished in the second half. I decreed that he is plumb tuckered. So I'm glad Madison Bumgarner gets, essentially, a week off at this point and can put the bad behind him and gear up for Sunday at AT&T Park.
Bumgarner's persona suggests someone who will be able to flip negatives like a string of lackluster or outright bad starts into a positive. He'll be angry, focused, and well aware of the stakes as he takes the mound. I don't think it's worth comparing 2012 to 2010 or assuming that there's a switch of some kind that will make the starters as good as they were in that postseason, but it's fair to take everything we know (from accounts and stats) and think that Madison will be just fine, or at the very least keep the Giants in the game long enough to give them a chance.
So the difference between last night and tonight (besides the outcome) is that there has simply been greater concern over Ryan Vogelsong's performance. Everybody expects him to revert to his true form, which is assumed to be, I don't know, a really, really bad pitcher. Madison Bumgarner is young, has established himself a great, young pitcher and he's left-handed. I suppose that makes him impervious to the same kind of worry that follows Vogelsong, and maybe that's fair. So while Ryan perhaps needs to "prove it" more often because of his age and because of the long career he's had already, maybe Madison gets more benefit of the doubt. He looked bad against the Padres and he hasn't looked particularly great in the second half (that K/9 dropped something fierce starting in August, though he did sport a shiny 2.97 ERA 39 1/3 innings) or on the road all season, but he's been mostly solid all year. It's not foolish to think he will be solid or better once the playoffs start, either. And, again, the Giants' postseason fate will be determined by the pitching which has no reinforcements. Count on Bumgarner because it makes sense, but also because there's no other choice.