Beware of Bumgarner: Lefty to lead San Francisco to 4th World Series title



Madison Bumgarner came out of the bullpen to pitch the San Francisco Giants to victory against the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. The Giants won, 3-2, to capture the Series title. (TNS)

It’s an even year, and that means it’s the San Francisco Giants’ turn to win the World Series.

The St. Louis Cardinals swept the Pittsburgh Pirates on the final weekend of the regular season. That meant the Giants — who won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — had to also sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch the final National League playoff spot.

That’s exactly what San Francisco did, winning its last four games of the regular season to finish one game ahead of St. Louis at 87-75. The Giants’ 87 wins are the lowest total of the 10 playoff teams, but they may be the most feared franchise of all heading into October.

Here’s a preview of how the 2016 MLB Postseason will play out:

American League Wild Card – Blue Jays 8, Orioles 7

Two of the league’s most potent and powerful offenses will collide at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. MLB home run leader Mark Trumbo and the Orioles will face the Toronto Blue Jays and reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson.

Both rosters have dangerous bats throughout the order, so this matchup will come down to which team gets the most out of its pitching staff. Toronto just seems to excel in front of its home crowd and find a way to get it done — usually via the long ball.

National League Wild Card – Giants 1, Mets 0

Two NL Cy Young Award contenders will star in a highly anticipated mound matchup between the past two NL World Series representatives.

Madison Bumgarner — a 6-foot-5, 250-pound lefty — already has a World Series MVP and three rings with the Giants at age 27. He finished the regular season 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and 251 strikeouts. Noah Syndergaard — a 6-foot-6, 240-pound righty — is the Mets’ 24-year-old flamethrower with a 14-9 record, 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts.

Bumgarner has been up against a tough opponent before, pitching a shutout at PNC Park in the 2014 NL Wild Card Game against the Pirates on the way to his third World Series title. Expect him to deliver again on the big stage.

American League Division Series – Rangers over Blue Jays, 3 games to 2

Even though they’re not in the same division, the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays have a heated rivalry dating back to last year’s AL Division Series. The Blue Jays prevailed on Jose Bautista’s go-ahead home run and titanic bat flip in a highly controversial Game 5.

When the teams met again this year, Bautista slid hard into Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, who retaliated by punching him in the jaw and starting a bench-clearing brawl. Both teams have loaded rosters, but Texas’ midseason additions of Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy should be enough to get revenge for the Rangers this year.

Red Sox over Indians, 3 games to 0

The Cleveland Indians might be one of the most surprising teams in the 2016 playoffs. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox — led by 40-year-old slugger David Ortiz — making it back to October seems like a no-brainer.

Known as one of the most clutch hitters of his generation, Ortiz has put together arguably the best year of his career in what he says will be his final season. His heroics should easily carry the Red Sox past the Indians to the ALCS.

National League Division Series – Giants over Cubs 3 games to 2

The Chicago Cubs enter the postseason as the prohibitive World Series favorite after winning an MLB-best 103 games in the regular season. The Cubs have the longest World Series drought of any MLB team by far, dating all the way back to 1908.

This could be the Cubs’ best chance in more than 100 years of ending that drought, though, and they have a great chance with manager Joe Maddon. But the Giants have the best manager in baseball in Bruce Bochy, who simply knows how to win when it counts.

Dodgers over Nationals, 3 games to 2

The Washington Nationals are looking to get past the Division Series for the first time, having lost in the NLDS as the No. 1 seed in both 2012 and 2014. The team has the NL Cy Young favorite in Max Scherzer, but with fellow pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg’s absence, it doesn’t stand a chance against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw, possibly the best pitcher in the league, has a notoriously uneven track record in the playoffs in comparison to his other-worldly regular season numbers. The Dodgers will need him to translate his success to the postseason and win twice to get past the Nationals.

American League Championship Series – Red Sox over Rangers, 4 games to 2

The Rangers and Red Sox are both stacked on offense and boast top-notch pitchers at the front of their staff in Cole Hamels and Rick Porcello. The Red Sox have just a little more postseason experience and a little more firepower to get Ortiz to one last World Series.

National League Championship Series – Giants over Dodgers, 4 games to 2

One of baseball’s most heated rivalries could be renewed with the National League pennant on the line. It would be fitting if Kershaw and Bumgarner match up once again as they continue to build their Hall of Fame cases — the former in the regular season, the latter in the postseason. If so, Bumgarner has the durability to outlast anyone.

World Series – Giants over Red Sox, 4 games to 3

The two most successful franchises of the 21st century with three World Series titles apiece, both the Giants and Red Sox have all the tools necessary to chase a fourth crown.

Baseball fans couldn’t ask for a better matchup than Ortiz at the plate, Bumgarner on the mound and a fourth World Series title on the line. It wouldn’t be surprising if Ortiz retires on top, but it’s almost impossible to pick against Bumgarner, Bochy and the Giants.