Otherwise, it’s been a disappointing playoff run for the 24-year-old righty. In his third postseason start, this one being crucial Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night, Hunter again didn’t pitch terribly, and he again left a close game. But, for the third time he failed to see the fifth inning and put back to work a sputtering bullpen.
Done in by 21 pesky San Francisco foul balls -- including 12 in the third inning alone -- that helped to drive up his pitch count, and by a first-pitch, 404-foot two-run homer by local product Aubrey Huff in the second inning, Hunter found himself again trying to explain how he felt good on the mound but couldn’t get the job done.
Huff’s homer stood as the Giants rode their young lefty, Madison Bumgarner, to a 4-0 victory. The Giants will now hand the ball to ace Tim Lincecum on Monday for the first of three elimination chances for the Giants. Of course, the Rangers will grasp to hope knowing they’ll have Cliff Lee going in his final start for the Rangers of 2010.
As for Hunter, he disappointingly ends his postseason with a 0-2 record and a 5.56 ERA. The two losses amount to half his total during the regular season when he won 13 of his 22 starts and never saw his ERA rise above 3.99
“It’s been tough when you don’t go out and do what you’re supposed to do. It’s tough,” Hunter said. “I felt pretty good tonight. There’s not too many things I would take back.”
Except for one: Huff’s towering home run into the right-field seats.
“He hit a pitch that didn’t do what it was supposed to do. It was a mistake,” Hunter said. “That’s what good hitters do. They hit mistakes.”
Hunter’s night might have turned out differently with just a smidgeon of help from his offense. But the Rangers’ mighty bats, bolstered by the designated hitter being in effect in their home ballpark, were befuddled by Bumgarner, who was nothing short of brilliant in his first World Series appearance.
Coming in, this matchup was billed as a toss-up: Two youthful arms with no postseason experience and nerves that might fray under pressure. Bumgarner watched fellow lefty Jonathan Sanchez get roughed up and leave early in the Rangers’ Game 3 win, but 21-year-old simply filed that away, came out and pitched the game of his brief big-league career.
He shut down Texas on just three hits, all singles. He struck out six and allowed one baserunner to reach scoring position.
The disparity in the two starters’ efficiency was drastic. Bumgarner threw 106 pitches and faced 27 batters over eight innings. Hunter, in just four innings, threw 83 pitches to 18 batters.
“He did great,” Hunter said of his counterpart. “He did what everybody’s supposed to do. He limited baserunners, he threw the ball well. Tip your cap. Probably the most potent lineup in baseball, he shut them down.”
Having to win three in a row, the Rangers will need their starters to go deep. Their bullpen situation is messy after Alexi Ogando exited the game during a second impressive inning of work with a left oblique strain. He will undergo exams Monday morning, but he is not expected to be available for Game 5 or beyond.
That removes the best right-handed arm outside of closer Neftali Feliz, who went a third World Series game Sunday without making an appearance. Trusted bullpen hands to get games to the ninth have dwindled to seemingly lefty Darren Oliver and, to an extent, lefty Derek Holland.
Washington’s confidence in Darren O'Day has to be somewhat shaken after he offered up a home run to Buster Posey in the eighth to make it 4-0. It was the second time in the series that O’Day has given up a blast to the first batter he’s faced. Juan Uribe tagged him for a three-run shot after O’Day relieved Lee in Game 1.
Of the seven relievers on the World Series roster, four own astronomical ERAs. O’Day and Kirkman are on the low end at 13.50 each. Holland is at 27.00, and Mark Lowe is at a mind-blowing 67.50. Ogando had yet to give up a run in 3 2/3 innings pitched, but he’s now out of service.
Oliver (3.38) and Feliz (0.00) are the only relievers that haven’t completely folded in pressure situations.
“I don’t think they’re going to need us [Monday],” O’Day said. “A guy like Cliff doesn’t have two bad games in a row. [The Giants] have got to go through him to win tomorrow, so maybe they won’t need us. That’d be nice.”