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In Madison Bumgarner, Giants turn to the future, and it's bright

San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner throws during the first inning of Game 4 of baseball's World Series against the Texas Rangers Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Matt Campbell, Pool)
San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner throws during the first inning of Game 4 of baseball's World Series against the Texas Rangers Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Matt Campbell, Pool) (Matt Campbell - AP)
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Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 1, 2010; 1:31 AM

ARLINGTON, TEX.

There's a reason his nickname is "the Future."

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There's a reason the Giants dropped their highest-paid player, $16 million southpaw Barry Zito, off their postseason roster to make room for a rookie.

And there's just cause why at 21 years and 91 days, Madison Bumgarner, a big southpaw from North Carolina who's now the toast of San Francisco, joined the list of youngest pitchers to start a World Series game after Bullet Joe Bush, Jim Palmer, Fernando Valenzuela and Johnny Podres. Palmer did better. But not much.

After watching Bumgarner pitch eight overpowering, scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Texas Rangers in Game 4 of this Series, everybody knows why the baseball waters have parted for the kid with the Carolina drawl and no apparent pulse.

What Bumgarner did to the American League's top-hitting team, dropping the Rangers into a three-games-to-one deficit with a 4-0 win, he may well do to the rest of baseball for many years. The only reason Bumgarner didn't become the second youngest man to pitch a Series shutout, behind Palmer, is because he got the hook after 106 pitches. Why? To protect the Future, of course.

"I can't say enough about what he did tonight, I mean, 21-year-old kid on that stage pitching like that," Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said. "He had it all working."

Recently, Bumgarner, from Hickory, N.C., said nothing could be more pressure than the Carolina state championship in '07, the year he was drafted No. 10 overall. "Sounds ridiculous," said Bumgarner, laughing at himself. "Obviously this is way bigger…I didn't expect this in my wildest dreams."

But others have, ever since he rang up mythological numbers roaring up through the bush leagues: 34-6 record, 2.00 ERA and 315 strikeouts. His middle initial is "K." In fact, maybe his explosion on this Series scene should not have been unexpected. Of the eight starters in this Series, which had the lowest ERA this year? Cliff Lee or Tim Lincecum, who'll meet in Game 5 on Monday? Or Matt Cain with his 0.00 post-season ERA? No, it was Bumgarner with a 3.00 ERA in 111 innings with 96 strikeouts.

When the super pitching kids who emerged in '10 are finally sorted out someday, it may not be Stephen Strasburg, Mat Latos, Jaime Garcia or any of the others who rank highest, but this lefty with the easy gas, the three-quarter-arm delivery that breeds longevity, the polished control and three other superior pitches besides his 94 mph heat who leaves the largest mark.

"He's fearless. He's a big kid with a funky delivery who attacks," said the Giants' Aubrey Huff, who grew up here and came to more than 100 Rangers games as a kid, but blasted an enormous two-run homer down the right field line in the third inning to give Bumgarner all the runs he needed.

Why wouldn't a small lead be enough? In two-third of his starts with the Giants, he allowed two runs or less. And in his last six starts, he only gave up five runs. This gem was right on schedule.


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