ARLINGTON -- A remarkably poised 21-year-old pitcher has brought the San Francisco Giants to the brink of an accomplishment that eluded some of the club's greatest players.
Madison Bumgarner's cool performance Sunday night paced the Giants to a 4-0 triumph over the Texas Rangers in Game 4 of the World Series and left San Francisco one victory shy of securing a championship that has remained so elusive for one of baseball's most storied, yet star-crossed, franchises.
Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal couldn't provide San Francisco with a Series title. But a crew including castoffs such as Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres and Cody Ross -- not to mention Bumgarner and the rest of the Giants' peerless pitching staff -- just might accomplish the feat for the City by the Bay.
Bumgarner, who appeared to have no idea that a rookie is supposed to be nervous in situations like this, calmly limited the Rangers to three hits in eight innings. Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth to complete the Giants' second shutout of the Series and fourth of the postseason.
For the first time since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958 and only the third time overall, the Giants own a 3-1 Series lead. They have three chances to eliminate Texas from the best-of-seven competition, win their first Series since 1954 and launch a celebration like none other they've prompted during their West Coast tenure.
Of the previous 44 Series participants to jump ahead 3-1, the team on top has proceeded to win the Fall Classic 38 times, with 24 of them ending matters in five games.
Monday's Game 5 gives San Francisco the opportunity to clinch its third consecutive postseason series on the road. Should the Rangers survive, the teams would return to AT&T Park for Game 6 on Wednesday.
"For me and probably everybody in this locker room, we're going to come in with the attitude that it's a must-win game," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "I think you have to approach it that way and come out ready to go because you've got one of the best on the other side throwing at us."
That would be Texas ace Cliff Lee, who will be opposed by his Giants counterpart, Tim Lincecum.
"Two of the best pitchers in the league going at it, battling," Ross observed. "Last time we won 11-7, which was weird. But I doubt that's going to be the case."
Huff, installed in the designated hitter's role by manager Bruce Bochy, opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the third inning before Torres, who rapped three hits, delivered a seventh-inning run with his second double of the evening. Posey contributed an eighth-inning homer.
Youngest pitchers to win a World Series game
Age in years, days
But the star was Bumgarner, who at 21 years and 91 days of age became the fifth-youngest pitcher to start a World Series game. He also was the youngest to handle this responsibility since another left-hander, Los Angeles Dodgers favorite Fernando Valenzuela, worked Game 3 against the Yankees in 1981.
Bumgarner, who began the season with Triple-A Fresno, maintained control literally and figuratively while walking two and striking out six. He sustained the mindset that helped him finish 7-6 during the regular season and appear in three previous postseason victories.
"I just keep telling myself to relax," Bumgarner said. "I've told myself [that] so much that it's starting to become second nature. It makes it a lot easier on me and the players, I think, to see somebody that's relaxed out there throwing."
Posey echoed that sentiment after teaming with Bumgarner to form the first battery of rookies to start a Series game since right-hander Spec Shea and future Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra collaborated for the Yankees in Game 1 in 1947.
"He was as good as I've seen him," Posey said. "He was in and out, really. The first couple of innings he might have yanked a couple of fastballs, but after that he was unreal."
Bumgarner did not permit a Rangers runner to reach scoring position until the seventh inning. Josh Hamilton reached safely on third baseman Juan Uribe's one-out error and advanced to second on Nelson Cruz's two-out single. Bumgarner responded by retiring Ian Kinsler, who at the time represented the potential tying run, on a fly ball to left field.
"The Giants have great pitching," Texas right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "Every guy on their staff is capable of throwing seven or eight innings of shutout ball. It doesn't get any easier. They've won on pitching all year and they're winning this because of pitching."
The Giants facilitated Bumgarner's mastery with virtually nonstop defensive support.
After starting an inning-ending double play in the first, second baseman Freddy Sanchez made a remarkable leaping catch of Francoeur's line drive to conclude the second. Posey threw out Hamilton on an attempted steal of second base in the fourth inning. Ross contributed a diving grab of Kinsler's liner in the fifth. San Francisco turned yet another double play in the sixth inning, retiring the fleet Elvis Andrus on the back end.
Even that efficiency stemmed from Bumgarner's skill.
"When the pitcher pounds the strike zone the way Madison did tonight, it helps the defense and makes them that much better," Bochy said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.