NLCS Game 1: St. Louis Cardinals 6, San Francisco Giants 4

San Francisco Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti (33) visits starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) on the mound along with catcher Buster Posey (28) during Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/The Sacramento Bee, Jose Luis Villegas) MAGS OUT; LOCAL TV OUT (KCRA3, KXTV10, KOVR13, KUVS19, KMAZ31, KTXL40); MANDATORY CREDIT

BOX SCORE

Game 1: Cardinals 6, Giants 4
Game 2: Cardinals (Carpenter) at Giants (Vogelsong), 5:07 p.m. Monday
Game 3: Giants (Cain) at Cardinals (Lohse), 1:07 p.m. Wednesday
Game 4: Giants (TBA) at Cardinals (TBA), 5:07 p.m. Thursday
x-Game 5: Giants (TBA) at Cardinals (TBA), 5:07 p.m. Friday
x-Game 6: Cardinals at Giants, 1:07 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21
x-Game 7: Cardinals at Giants, 5:07 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22

Normally, it’s the visiting team that comes into the best-of-seven series looking to at least split the first two games.

But if you had asked any Giants fan heading into the 2012 NLCS, they would have gladly taken a split.

Now, the Giants almost need that split.

Things started badly for the Giants Sunday, got a little better, but ended with a 6-4 loss to the Cardinals in the Giants’ third consecutive home postseason loss at AT&T Park.

And the overriding question after the loss was: What is wrong with Madison Bumgarner.

A pitcher who was so key during the Giants’ 2010 World Series run has been in a major funk this postseason.

It continued Sunday, as MadBum was tagged for six runs on eight hits, one walk in 3 2/3 innings.

Things started off well for Bumgarner as he set the Cardinals down in order in the first on two groundouts and a line out to left.

“He came out with good stuff, but it dropped a little bit,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

But in the second, Bumgarner got stung again by the long ball, something the Giants’ had hoped to avoid by having Bumgarner start at home.

David Freese’s two-run shot to left gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

In the fourth it got worse. Daniel Descalso raked a double down the line in right. Pete Kozma followed with a double down the left field line and it was 3-0 Cardinals. After striking out pitcher Lance Lynn, Jon Jay singled home Kozma. Then Carlos Beltran’s two-run homer to left ended Bumgarner’s night.

“I think (he’s) just struggling with command,” catcher Buster Posey said. “Breaking balls not getting buried in. It doesn’t have quite the same finish on it. I’d say that’s the main thing.”

More troubling was the radar gun on Bumgarner, which Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News reported at being around 88-89 mph in the fourth inning, lower than the 91-93 mph we are used to seeing from Bumgarner.

“That’s the way it’s been the past two starts,” Bumgarner said. “Not a whole lot of life on the ball. At the same time, you’ve still got to find a way to make pitches.”

Well, it’s been more than the last two starts in the postseason. It actually dates back to August.

Bumgarner had a string of eight consecutive quality starts from July 13-Aug. 20, culminating with eight shutout innings (four hits, 10 Ks) at Los Angeles.

Since then, he has only had one quality start — Sept. 17 at home against the Rockies, when he gave up one run on four hits in six innings. However, in that game, he walked a season-high five batters. In his other regular-season starts, he’s given up 3 to 5 runs in between 4.0-6.1 innings per start.

And you’ll recall the Giants didn’t exactly finish the season against powerhouse lineups: Cubs, Rockies twice, Padres twice.

In the postseason, he gave four runs on seven hits in four innings vs. the Reds. And then Sunday’s start.

In his last four starts, he’s given up six home runs — in pitcher friendly ballparks (3 starts at AT&T, one in Petco).

So what does this mean for Game 5?

“We’ll talk about it tonight, tomorrow, and as we get to Game 5 what we will do,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “But, he’s one of our guys. He’s had a great year, and we’ve seen what this kid has done for us during the season and in the postseason. But, it’s something that we’ll discuss.”

Depending on what happens Monday with Vogelsong, it looks as if Barry Zito might get the call.

For what it’s worth, Zito gave up two runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings in his only start in St. Louis this season on Aug. 7.

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