PITTSBURGH -- Madison Bumgarner was named National League Pitcher of the Month for May and August. If the award's distribution extended into the postseason, the Giants left-hander also would have a head start on October, particularly after Wednesday night.
Bumgarner dominated the NL Wild Card Game, silencing the Pittsburgh Pirates and a record PNC Park crowd of 40,629 with a four-hitter in San Francisco's 8-0 triumph. While Brandon Crawford's fourth-inning grand slam highlighted the Giants' offense, it was Bumgarner's performance that subdued the Pirates immediately and kept them at a disadvantage until the final out.
San Francisco advanced to an NL Division Series matchup against the Washington Nationals beginning Friday in the nation's capital. Under the series' best-of-five format, the Giants are guaranteed at least one home date at AT&T Park -- Game 3 on Monday.
A defeat would have ended the Giants' season. But they're proving that they simply don't lose showdown games such as this one. As Casey Stengel said, you can look it up. They not only captured their eighth consecutive postseason game, but they also lengthened their winning streak in elimination games to seven.
"They have that DNA," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, "and they found it again today."
Bumgarner obviously possesses genes that enhance concentration, calm and competitiveness. Ignoring the howling partisan crowd and the game's must-win imperative, he maintained his typical precision, issuing only one walk while striking out 10. Of the 109 pitches Bumgarner threw, 79 were strikes. Pittsburgh, which ranked fourth in the league in runs, moved only three runners into scoring position against Bumgarner, who improved his postseason record to 4-2.
According to baseball-reference.com, Bumgarner threw only the 10th postseason shutout in Major League history with at least 10 strikeouts and no more than one walk issued.
"He's the guy you want out there," Bochy said amid the revelry of his players spraying each other with beer and champagne. "He's pitched so many big games for us, but it's hard to get bigger than this. It was a do-or-die situation, just like a seventh game."
Bumgarner displayed the form that enabled him to compile an 18-10 record this season. He struck out at least one batter in every inning except the seventh. Moreover, Bumgarner recorded four strikeouts only after catcher Buster Posey scooped up third strikes that broke sharply and skipped around his feet, requiring throws to first base.
"You get two strikes on somebody, you're not trying to paint something," Bumgarner said. "You just want to bounce it. The fact that we were getting ahead with the fastball early made it harder for them to lay off of it."
The Pirates didn't threaten Bumgarner until the eighth inning, by which time the Giants had finished all their scoring. Even then, Pittsburgh needed a pair of San Francisco errors to put runners on the corners with one out. An unfazed Bumgarner responded by striking out Jordy Mercer and retiring Andrew McCutchen on a fielder's-choice grounder.
"It was a different game that he pitched, a different game that we'd seen scouted," Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said. "He used all of his pitches. He was able to get his fastball in tight with the right-handers. He was able to spin the ball late. ... Used some changeups early after he'd show guys the fastball. He also knew how to elevate. I mean, he had it working tonight."
Pirates starter Edinson Volquez matched Bumgarner until the fourth inning, when the Giants loaded the bases with nobody out on singles by Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence and a walk to Brandon Belt. A pivotal event in that sequence was a close 2-2 pitch that Volquez threw to Belt, who took the borderline delivery for ball three.
Up came Crawford, who lofted Volquez's 1-2 delivery into the right-field stands. Crawford said he was striving to avoid striking out when the count reached two strikes.
"That would be the last thing you'd want to do in that situation," he said. "Fortunately he left a curveball a little more up than I think he wanted to."
Crawford's first postseason homer placed him in the pantheon of Giants who have hit memorable postseason grand slams, including Chuck Hiller, who hit the first World Series slam in NL history in 1962; Will Clark, who rocked the Cubs' Greg Maddux in the opener of the 1989 NL Championship Series; and Posey, whose big hit hastened San Francisco's triumph in the clincher of the 2012 NLDS at Cincinnati.
Belt drove in three runs with an RBI single in the sixth inning and a two-run single in the seventh. He and Crawford had plenty of help, as Joe Panik went 3-for-5 and Posey added two hits, including an eighth-inning RBI single.