With a runner on second and one out in the fifth inning, Madison Bumgarner threw a first-pitch fastball to Clint Barmes. Bumgarner threw a lot of great pitches this Monday evening, and this one wasn't remarkable on the surface. It was a 93-mph fastball for a called strike.
I submit that if it wasn't the best Madison Bumgarner pitch, that it was the most Madison Bumgarner pitch. It was the litmus test, the cutter in the coal mine, what you look for if you want to know if he has his best stuff going. This is the best pitch in baseball, give or take, even if it isn't the sexiest. It's the pitch that would make college kids quit and minor leaguers retire if they saw enough of them. For this pitch was a moving fastball in on the hands of right-handed hitters.
Bumgarner sets up on the third-base side of the rubber, for starters. Few lefties go that far over, especially against righties, but Bumgarner revels in it. Once he's there, he slings a lazy condor wing behind his body, making the hitter lose the ball. Then it comes out by the first-base side of the rubber, and the hitter starts thinking about that side of the plate, which is where the ball looks like it's going.
Then the ball vacillates between "called strike" and "oh god that's going to bore through my hands and travel through my veins into my soul and come out of the skull of my grandpa in 1940 and I will never be born." You can understand the hesitation. Some hitters, the courageous ones, swing anyway. They pull the ball foul, bust bats, and occasionally slap it to the third baseman.
Barnes took the pitch. He wasn't trying to protect with two strikes, so why risk it? His gramps was probably a sweetheart. The actual out came on a curveball on the next pitch, so you might not have noticed anything special about that get-ahead fastball.
I saw it, though. That's my song. It's like watching your favorite actor drink a cup of coffee and thinking, "My word, no one can make you believe they're actually drinking coffee quite like that." When Bumgarner is right, he's an impossible pitcher for right-handers to feel comfortable hitting against. That's the pitch that does it.
There were other good pitches, certainly, and Bumgarner looked as sharp as he did last week against the Dodgers. The gap between Game 7 and his first dominant outing of the season was too long. The gap between that outing and this one was the bare minimum, and it was the kind of easy, effortless success (with the easy, effortless delivery) that makes you get used to it and act spoiled when it doesn't show up every time.
That one pitch, though. It sets up the curves below the plate and the fastballs at the neck. Hey, you gotta believe me about that pitch. Did you guys see that pitch? Let's talk about that pitch some more ...
Since the start of the 2010 season, the Giants are 51-256 in games in which they score two runs or fewer. Did you expect more wins? More losses? I think I expected a better winning percentage, which makes a game like this a delightful bit of trolling. Twenty percent of the time, the Giants can hit like a bunch of goats with bats in their mouths and still win. It helps to have one of baseball's best pitchers. It sure helps.
Sergio Romo has faced 37 batters this season and struck out 15 of them. He's still uncomfortable throwing the slider to left-handers, but he's back to making right-handed hitters look like fools as a rule, not as an exception. This is year eight of Romo on the Giants, which is just silly, and in those eight seasons, we've gotten mighty used to him making right-handed hitters look like fools. It's one of my favorite baseball things.
- Madison Bumgarner's thumb-defenestrating cutter
- Romo making right-handers look like fools
Not necessarily in that order.
This play was absolutely good enough to be the PLAY that saved a no-hitter. As is, it was merely breathtaking.
Now that all of the positive stuff is out of the way, let us talk about how the Giants played like a bunch of bonermitts with mitts made out of boners.
Hey, hold on, I mean the traditional meaning.
The Giants had boners falling out of their pockets after they were caught shoplifting at the boner store. They were wearing a scarf made out of boners, and the scarf got caught in an industrial turbine, cartoonishly spinning them around and knocking boners all over the place. The turbine was in a factory that made boners.
Four errors. One of them was a tricky throw from Brandon Crawford that was hard to get mad at. The other three were impossibly dumb. The game started with one of those, as Casey McGehee came across and shot-putted a ball that Brandon Belt absolutely has to catch. The game nearly ended with one of them, with Belt reacting like Santiago Casilla was throwing him a live goliath birdeater (do not google) on the most routine of plays.
In between, Belt had two hits, which is good. He was also thrown out stretching one of them into a double. He'll be fine, but that was the worst 2-for-4 game I've seen in a while.
McGehee, on the other hand, continues to have troubles justifying his baseball existence. When he comes up with a runner on first and fewer than two outs, this is all I can think of:
Can you imagine how nervous he has to be, how desperately he wants to not screw up in the same way he has been screwing up this year?
Bochy said he'll give McGehee "a break here and let him catch his breath." But still believes in his ability, liked AB's last 4-5 games.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) May 5, 2015
Good idea. Still pulling for McGehee down at the station. If you think the bamboo is taller on the other side of the fence, note that McGehee's prodigious DP'ing is barely eclipsing the start to the 2010 season from Pablo Sandoval. Bad streaks can happen to good players.
It's easier to regurgitate platitudes like that after a win. Four in a row! Back to .500! Who cares what Belt and McGehee did?
Think about that pitch. That sweet, sweet pitch.