Madison Bumgarner's first pitch of Friday night was a 92-mph fastball, right on the inside edge for strike one. HIs second pitch of the night was another 92-mph fastball, this one an inch inside. It was still called a strike.
Oh, here we go. It was a Dick Ritchie moment.
"This is gonna be fun," you squeal, making nerdy head movements like some sort of hideous pigeon-man. Bumgarner with his A-command and a loose strike zone. What could possibly go wrong?
And then the everything went wrong. Elvis Andrus got a double because Norichika Aoki drew the "Marvin Benard" card in a game of charades, followed by Adrian Beltre hitting a homer on an 0-2 pitch that was thrown right where it was supposed to go.
So annoying. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a third baseman who could annoy pitchers and opposing teams like that, swatting at pitches out of the strike zone and doing good things with them? Yeah, me neither. Seems like a weird dream to have someone like that. Beltre is just that good, though, even at 48 years old, and he started the miserable/oddly effective night of Bumgarner.
Bruce Bochy walked around the dugout, talking to himself, as if he were providing narration for a film noir. It was hot. It was sticky. Waves of heat rose from home plate, and the place smelled like fried hot dogs. You could cut a slice out of the air and put it on a platter. Then some dame walked in and ... well, it was just a baseball game. But you'll forgive the Giants for being a little off. Travel + day off + heat = misery, usually.
At the start of a road trip, though, it could have been a lot worse. Bumgarner threw seven innings, after all. He could have melted down completely and made the Giants waste Yusmeiro Petit early, with a domino effect down the bullpen. Instead, he stuck it out and pitched rather well. Final line: Seven innings pitched, zero walks, eight strikeouts. His xFIP on the night was 1.80. Nick Martinez's was 4.09. Basically, the Giants won in my computer simulation. Won't you come live with me, here, in my computer?
This was the second start of the year in which Bumgarner missed with just a few pitches, had a generally dominant game, yet still gave up five earned runs or more. It's a weird thing to watch, but it also makes a little sense. When he's wild, he's wild in the strike zone, not out of it. Still, I'm not going to pretend this was an awful start.
Adam Rosales opened the second inning by chopping a fastball on his thumbs for a double. Rougned Odor -- I would like at least one talented Rougned Odor on the Giants, please -- got a pitch up, and it was a mistake. Delino DeShields lined a curve on the edge of the zone to right, keeping the inning going. Elvis Andrus hit an Adrian Beltre fastball above the letters for homer because he wants to be Adrian Beltre, and I can't blame him for that one bit.
Two homers hit on pitches above the strike zone. An egregious misplay in left. One mistake pitch out of all the hits in the second inning. Does this absolve Bumgarner? Sheesh, I don't know. Pitching is weird. But I'll give my eyeballs the benefit of the doubt and say, no, it doesn't absolve Bumgarner. But the way he pitched the rest of the night suggests that his stuff was better than six earned runs.
Not that it matters, considering the Giants couldn't hit.
In Friday night's game, the Giants couldn't hit.
That's not entirely true. At least at first, it wasn't. The Giants got two base hits in the first, and then Hunter Pence got a 1-1 fastball that was, ha ha, 91 mph and right there, man. He fouled it a million miles per hour off the catcher's mask. It was worse than anything Bumgarner threw on the night, and it came with two runners on. And yet.
Nick Martinez seems like a very Giants-y pitcher, with a little more stuff than you might expect, but not enough to impress you, and a desperate dependence on command. I'm not sure if the Giants feast on those pitchers, usually, or if that's their kryptonite. It's probably somewhere in the middle -- sometimes you eat the bear/bar, sometimes the bear/bar eats you. After the Giants were down 6-2, I was still thought they were going to win.
Now that we've pointed out how stupid thinking is, let's wrap this up.
Rougned Odor's slide was dumb and potentially calamitous. "Whoops, sorry about those postseason chances. Can I get your knee for you?" I'll give him a pass for a couple reasons. First, middle infielders generally aren't butts to other middle infielders. Sliding is kind of hard, really. I know that sounds silly, but it's an unnatural thing to do, especially when your brain is trying to dissect the difference between "distracting the fielder" and "liquifying the fielder."
Second, another infielder said as much:
Kuip's point is it's an inherently dangerous play when the runner takes off with the pitch. He's on top of the 2nd baseman no matter what.— LOLKNBR (@LOLKNBR) August 1, 2015
It was an ugly slide, but I think it was just bad baseball, not bad intentions. Now let's all agree that Matt Holliday is a gorilla man who loses every game of solitaire because he eats the cards.
Which brings us to the next play, in which Madison Bumgarner is hot and sticky and angry at the game and annoyed at the slide and SO VERY CRANKY.
We've been through this before, in great detail. Let's leave it at this: Stop giving a shit about how the hitter reacts. Or, better yet, chuckle to yourself and mutter, "Yeah, I'll bet you thought you had that, buttnose." Acknowledge that pitching is three parts making your pitch and one part getting lucky when the hitter just misses one.
Expecting every hitter to jog to first like, "Sorry, Mr. Bumgarner. I didn't meant to imply ..." is unrealistic and weird. It's a game. There are split-second reactions that win or lose games, and there's adrenaline behind those reactions. Bats will be spiked into the ground. Curse words will be uttered.
Deal with it? Deal with it.
Or, whatever, do it if it makes you ornery and you use the hatred to bite people's heads off and strike them out. I'm more of a results-oriented person, here.
Too bad the results on Friday night were kind of poopy.