I've apologized before for the options Giants fans have in the new SB Nation MLB awards. Best defensive play? The Game 7 double play, dummy. Most important hit? The one that sent them straight to the World Series, sheesh. It's been fun writing them all up, though, even if the winners were probably forgone conclusions.
Today's is the worst/best yet. The goal is to find the best pitching performance from a Giants pitcher in 2014.
And done in one. People still talk about Pedro Martinez coming into Game 5 of the ALDS 15 years ago, and that was to get the Red Sox to an ALCS that they would lose. Bumgarner did that in Game 7 of the World Expletive Series. It's the best pitching performance in baseball this year, much less the Giants. If you vote for something else, you're just being ironic or some such.
Or, perhaps, you can make a case for something else. I'll try. We're talking about five scoreless relief innings, after all. The bonus points for the two day's rest factor in, but there were more scoreless innings thrown by pitchers this year. Bumgarner's is the best when you account for that pesky context, but there were other fantastic outings. For example:
Tim Lincecum's no-hitter
Right. There was another no-hitter this year. In most of the seasons in Giants history, San Francisco or otherwise, this would probably win. Would have won last year, possibly. If the Giants were knocked out of the Wild Card Game, are we suddenly more fond of this achievement, as if it's a delightful consolation prize? Are we more fond of it, regardless, because it's a chapter in the weird page-turner of the 2014 Giants? Or is it something of a footnote now, considering everything that happened afterward?
Nah. It's still as beautiful. It's just about the trollingest no-hitter possible, too, which fits the theme of the season. It's just hard to pit a June game vs. the Padres against Game 7 of the World Series, regardless of what happens. My heart would vote for it, but my heart doesn't have a pointer finger to click the mouse, so it's hosed.
Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card Game
Ah, hold on a second. In Game 7, the Royals had an awful, nervous approach that allowed Bumgarner to stay away from the middle of the plate completely. In the National League Wild Card Game, Madison Bumgarner pinned the Pirates to the ground and did the thing where you spit a hanging loogie and then suck it back in. He was a bully.
On the other hand, the pressure was off in the later innings.
That counts for something. But I withdraw my claim that you can't vote for anything but Game 7 in good faith. So far we have a no-hitter and a shutout in an elimination game. Those aren't pity contenders.
Yusmeiro Petit in the NLDS
"Oh, cool five innings of scoreless relief, there, Madison. Really good job."
On a cold, fall evening Yusmeiro Petit became a postseason legend. Maybe it wasn't an epic performance. It was akin to some of Virgil's minor works, then. Without this outing, the Giants might lose in five games. With one slip, one hanging curve, one fastball that was too meaty, the game ends and hardly anyone blames Petit. If he threw five innings but gave up a run in the sixth, would anyone have criticized him? Of course not.
Instead, six scoreless. Brandon Belt is hero a, Petit is hero b, and Buster Posey, Joe Panik, and Pablo Sandoval are heroes c.1, c.2, and c.3. The Giants put the Nationals in a hole that was too deep for anyone to climb out of. Well, anyone but the 2012 Giants.
Madison Bumgarner, World Series Game 5
I DON'T KNOW. THEY'RE ALL SO GOOD.
If Tim Hudson throws seven innings of two-run ball and the bullpen takes over, this one wins. It's at least a contender worth fighting for. Heck, maybe it wins anyway. It's possibly worth sifting through this one and the Wild Card Game to see how much Posey moves his glove to chase pitches that miss location. I'm not going to do it because I'm lazy, but please, report back to me if you do it. For now, I can't choose between them.
Madison Bumgarner, 8/26 vs. Rockies
It was against the Rockies at AT&T Park, which means it was like a nice seven-inning, three-hit, one-run start when you adjust for park/competition. It's still as well as Madison Bumgarner can pitch. One runner. One measly runner. Also, I forgot about the ridiculous plays from Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford in that game.
Miss u baseball.
By Game Score, this is the correct answer. It was the sixth-best start in San Francisco Giants history according to Game Score, just a tick below Matt Cain's perfect game and tied with Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter. It might not win, but the video is a delight.
Yusmeiro Petit, 9/9 vs. Diamondbacks
Included because of one stat: 84 pitches. This is the only contender in the poll in which a run was allowed, but it was still a complete game on 84 pitches. This is one of my favorite outings of the year, just because it was so unexpected, dominant, and quick. It's worth an honorable mention.
There you have it. It's still probably Game 7, if only because we are nothing if not curators of history around these parts. I don't think it's out of place to make an argument for some of those, though.