Three years, three aces. When the Giants won the World Series in 2010, the clear ace of the pitching staff that year was Tim Lincecum. In 2012, when they won the Series again, it was Matt Cain’s turn to claim the ace title. If the Giants, who currently boast the majors’ best record at 37-21, manage to win their third even-year championship in a row, the ace of the 2014 staff will be Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner has taken up the mantle of the team’s unquestioned number one starter after a torrid month of May that saw him go 5-0, bringing his overall record to 7-2 with a 2.85 ERA. His brilliance earned him the National League pitcher of the month for the first time in his career.
Bumgarner finished with his best season as a major leaguer in 2013 and was picked by many to finish high in the 2014 NL Cy Young voting. His season got off to a shaky start, though, and Bumgarner pitched through a spotty April where he finished with a (possibly high-BABIP-fueled) 3.74 ERA and more hits allowed than innings pitched.
Once May hit, though, he was the Bumgarner that Giants fans were familiar with, mixing precision control with his trademark deceptive delivery. In May, Bumgarner made six starts and won five of them (with one no-decision, in which he would have earned the victory if not for a blown ninth inning lead). In May, he struck out 48 batters and walked just five in 39 innings, giving up just two home runs and finishing with a 2.08 ERA. The shaky Bumgarner who was giving up a lot of hard contact in April was nowhere to be seen. Instead the May version was a guy who appeared intent on mowing through the league for his first Cy Young Award.
Bumgarner became the first Giants hurler to win a pitcher of the month award since Tim Lincecum was awarded one in 2009. His more high-profile wins in the month include two wins against the Braves, one against the Cardinals, and one against the Dodgers. He made headlines in the latter victory when he got into a shouting match with Dodger outfielder Yasiel Puig, after apparently taking offense to Puig’s slow trot around the bases after hitting a home run. Bumgarner now ranks third overall in the NL with seven wins and third in strikeouts, with 85. He’ll hope to kick off a similarly dominant June with a start against the Reds at Great American Ballpark tomorrow morning.