The Giants entered the postseason with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in the rotation and no certainties after that. Following Bumgarner’s latest shaky outing against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS, they have to be wondering whether they can afford to pencil the lefty in for his expected Game 5 start.
Bumgarner was pounded for six runs in 3 2/3 innings by the Cardinals in Sunday’s defeat. He also gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in his Game 2 loss to the Reds in the NLDS. Dating back to the regular season, he’s allowed four runs in seven of his last nine starts. He’s turned in just one quality start during that span.
As of Aug. 20, Bumgarner was 14-7 with a 2.83 ERA for the season. Since that date, he’s struggled with his location and demonstrated less fastball velocity. He has a 37/19 K/BB ratio in 44 2/3 innings in his last nine starts. Before that, he had a 160/32 K/BB ratio in 171 2/3 innings.
Unless they can go the next three games without using Tim Lincecum, the Giants aren’t going to be in a position in which they can afford to replace Bumgarner. That seems like a long shot, since it’d likely involve Barry Zito going deep into Game 4. Most likely, they’ll take their chances again with Bumgarner in Game 5, but keep him on a very short leash in the process. They’ll almost certainly need more from him then if they’re going to reach the World Series for the second time in three years.