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Giants win again, despite stalling offense

Madison Bumgarner's strong start helped the Giants defeat the Dodgers, despite the Giants scoring just seven runs, their lowest total in three days.

General mirth and/or merriment.
General mirth and/or merriment.
Victor Decolongon

In the sixth game of the season last year, Matt Cain gave up nine earned runs in the fourth inning. It was an abominable game, but you know what we told ourselves? It's early. Hey, how can you get down about a game in April? It's early. Don't worry. Check out the gold lettering on these jerseys, bro. It's April.

Except that game was right. It was right about how the season was going to go. There were going to be runs, and they weren't going to be scored by the Giants. Cain was going to have his first un-Cain season, and the Giants were hosed on several levels. We should have listened to that game.

I propose we listen to the hell out of this game, then. It's only fair. If you were sending messages last year at this time, baseball, don't change the pattern on us now. Through six games in 2013, the Giants scored 15 runs. This year, they've scored 38. MEANING. THIS ALL HAS MEANING. LET'S ASCRIBE MEANING TO THIS.

The Giants won five games out of a six-game stretch on just four different occasions last season, so if you're trying to logic the fast start away, lest you get disappointed when the regression starts, don't take it too far. There's a reason why it feels good for your team to win five games out of six: It might not happen that often, even in the good years. And I sure have missed the greedy feeling that comes with winning the first two games of a three-game Dodger series.

Folks, I'm going to chalk these first six games up as "successful" with hints of "pleasing." Tommy Lasorda was at the game today. Think about him getting surlier and surlier as the game progressed. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was at the game, too, and he was really rude to a kid I saw in a documentary about airplanes, so I don't like him, either. Right now -- right now -- there are Dodger fans stuck in traffic, thinking about Buster Posey. That's always true, but it's especially true right now.

Last year at this time, the Rockies were melting the rest of the National League, too, so don't get too giddy. First week. April. Baseball. You've been through this before. But being a little giddy wouldn't be considered uncouth. Let your hair down. Dance on a couple tables before you leave.


Yasiel Puig got picked off, and he looked silly doing it. Also, Paul Maholm started for the Dodgers.


Madison Bumgarner looked fantastic for most of the game, a welcome contrast to his first start of the year. I was a little surprised that Posey didn't call for the slutter on the hands more, considering Joe West was calling strikes at the letters on the hands. If Bumgarner gets that pitch, it's basically 1968 with a 20-foot-tall mound. But they stuck to the game plan, and it's hard to argue with the results.

I'm starting to wonder about West's strike zone, though …

One of the most pleasing things about Bumgarner's better starts is that when he racks up the strikeouts, it's not like they're coming on 98-m.p.h. fastballs or disappearing changeups. They're usually coming on his standard slutter and breaking balls, which don't look as effective as the typical ace's offerings unless you're paying close attention. But they are that effective. And how. When he succeeds like that, it's like the validation of a substance-over-style approach. The slutter is so, so good. It's been a joy to watch it develop over the years.



Let's get a little negative for a second, though. I don't begrudge the idea Bochy had when the seventh inning came around. The bullpen's been worked hard early, and an extra inning from Bumgarner is an extra inning the bullpen didn't have to absorb. But here's the thing: When Bumgarner comes out and looks tired after 110 pitches or so, don't act surprised, as if it was a possibility you hadn't considered. Don't wait until the second baserunner to get someone up in the bullpen. Have someone playing catch before the first runner steps on first, and that's if you're not having someone warm up between innings.

This is a recurring theme, and you'll see it again this season. Bochy's threshold for "Wait, I gotta bad feeling about this" is much, much higher than ours is. Maybe that's why he's a good manager, because he doesn't panic or react in a knee-jerk manner to his pitchers. But it's so, so frustrating to watch Bumgarner (or Tim Lincecum) hit a wall, only to have Bochy send samples of the wall to the lab to confirm if it's a wall.

Dave Righetti: I'll be honest, when I went out there, his arm smelled like a van trying to drive uphill with the parking brake on. I think there were tears in his eyes, and when he scratched his nose, I think I heard something that sounded like a bag of forks dropping.

Bruce Bochy: Wait for the lab to get back to us.

I get the idea behind protecting the bullpen. But if there's a choice between tiring out David Huff in April or pushing Bumgarner to his limits, I don't see how there's much of a choice.

Thus endeth the cranky bits of the recap.

The Giants are 5-1, and they beat the Dodgers twice in a row at Dodger Stadium. There are just 79 chances left for the Dodgers to win a game at home this year, and there's still a chance they won't do it, statistically speaking.

That's fun.