The unlikeliness of it all. One year ago, Madison Bumgarner was a pitching prospect without a fastball. His velocity wasn’t just down, it was Rueterian. And as he was always known as a one-pitch pitcher -- the changeup and breaking ball were so raw that they barely warranted a mention -- so the red flags were waving red flags taped to smaller red flags. There are such things as pitching prospects, but when they start pitching as if there’s something wrong, there usually is.
One year ago, Buster Posey didn’t have enough of his manager’s trust to play in September. Posey didn’t get spot starts, he didn’t get garbage time, and he didn’t get pinch-hitting opportunities. He was a ghost at the end of the bench. A couple of months later, the organization brought back the Bengie Molina, who had the undivided trust of Bruce Bochy. The plan all along was to bring Posey along slowly, but there was every reason to believe that Posey wouldn’t catch much in the majors in 2010 because he didn’t have big-league catching experience, and he wouldn’t get big-league catching experience because he wouldn’t catch much in the majors.
The pile of unlikely is about 25 deep. Aubrey Huff was lucky to get a major league contract after he floundered in Detroit. Andres Torres was a fifth outfielder. Freddy Sanchez had a knee filled with shoulder goo, and a shoulder filled with knee shavings; he was a medical experiment with a new contract. They were all heroes in what might be the biggest win in San Francisco history to date.
But Madison Bumgarner.
No matter what the outcome of the series, no matter what nuttiness ensues over final game or three, that was a pitching performance that we’ll bore our kids and grandkids about. We’ll sit on a sunny porch,drinking lemonade and spinning yarns about Madison Bumgarner’s start in Game Four. He threw 104 MPH, he did. He threw sliders that made hitters in the on-deck circle take cover before the balls broke over the plate. He completely broke down one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game in two consecutive at-bats.
Wait, that last one wasn’t embellished. That was a legendary start, and not just in the context of the San Francisco Giants. That was a 21-year-old rookie made of one part grizzled veteran, one part emotionless sociopath, and five parts amazing. Completely unflappable and completely in control.
A rookie pitcher throwing perfect pitches to the rookie catcher who was calling them. A cobbled mix of veterans outhitting and outfielding the opposition. The 2010 Giants are one win away. They’ll have three shots. One win away. The unlikeliness of it all is stunning and beautiful.