In the 177th game of his career, Madison Bumgarner pitched the best game of his life.
/frantic gesturing from the audience
In the 177th regular-season game of his career, Madison Bumgarner pitched the best regular-season game of his life. Technically, his start last year against the Rockies was better, but the part that pushes this game over the edge is that it happened just now. Which means it's the best regular-season game of his life, then.
Bumgarner threw 7⅔ innings of perfect baseball and flirted with a perfect game. Texted a perfect game when he couldn't sleep. Made the right Instagram comments at the right time, but not so many that it would seem weird. Bumgarner flirted with that perfect game, alright. Did it like a champion.
It wasn't to be. And here's the gluttony of the Giants' last six seasons, the embarrassment of riches: I'm not cursing out Melvin Upton right now. Whereas Paul O'Neill will always be a blight on the Giants franchise, and whereas Eric Chavez will always earn scorn for not decomposing just a few days before he did, Melvin Upton is cool. Even though he's probably not quite the hitter that Bumgarner is, he got a pitch to hit, and he hit it. Bravo.
If this had happened in 2008, I'd probably be in tears right now. As is, you know what this almost-perfect game does? It makes me appreciate the no-hitters and the perfect games the Giants have given us since 2009*.
*starting with Jonathan Sanchez vs. the Padres
They all required a measure of skill and luck. Bumgarner had the skill, but he didn't have the luck, at least not all of it. The best poker players in the world will eventually have a bad beat, or they might even have an earned beat after hours and hours of solid playing. Happens. The important part is that good lord Madison Bumgarner stop what are you doing their families are watching. The embrace between Buster Posey and Bumgarner after the final out contained the disappointment and elation. "Dang it. Also, hell yes."
Do yourself a favor, though, and pretend Melvin Upton got that hit in the top of the first. Nice and clean, straight up the middle. What are you saying about that game? Nothing with an air of disappointment, that's for sure. Everything about the game would be about how magnificent Bumgarner was, with maybe -- maybe -- a passing what-if about the hit in the first inning. It's a much easier way to reflect on one of the best pitching performances you'll watch this year, if not the last 10 years, and appreciate it for it was. You don't need the what-ifs.
(No, seriously, what if the Giants no-hit the Padres again?)
Stop that! We're here to talk about the almost-perfect game, at least in a general sense of awesomeness. I implore you to watch the highlights again. Specifically, the following nuances:
- The parts where he threw the fastball and it went FRRRMP and the batter couldn't
- When he would throw a slutter that went SRRRNNNG in on the hands and the batter didn't even
- Those curveballs that started off the plate, then went KRREEEEEEENNNNNOOOwww right into the strike zone, and the batter was all
All of that was fun. And while my 50 Awesome Things About Madison Bumgarner Not Throwing a No-Hitter is basically 50 different bullet points about me getting to play Super Mario Maker the second after I finish this thing, the 50 Awesome Things About Madison Bumgarner's Perfect Game would have been so much better to write. That is, they will be so much fun to write, at some point in his career. I'll share a secret with you: Both Matt Cain's and Chris Heston's achievements came on horrible, no good, very bad days for me. Before both of those games started, I wanted to crawl under the sofa, eat whatever I found, and sleep for 30 days. And then I stayed up until the morning to write about both of them.
By the end of both, I was having so much fun.
This one started out fun. The best part was the absurdity of it all. No, seriously, what if the Giants no-hit the Padres again? Of all the Washington Generals moments, I mean ... the Padres are going to win five championships in a row one day, and we'll just have to take it. All of you need to take an oath right now that you'll be annoyed and disgusted, but mostly accepting. If Bumgarner got a perfect game against them -- the fourth no-hitter against the Padres in seven seasons -- you couldn't even complain about the odd-year nonsense of 2015. Not without a disclaimer of okay, I guess there was the no-hitter and perfect game, but fine, whatever.
As is, Madison Bumgarner threw a symphony. There was a runner on first base once, and that runner trotted slowly back to the dugout when the inning was over. Bumgarner has a shot for 20 wins -- which excites me in that same 100-RBI kind of way that Buster Posey got us with in 2012 -- but more than that, he's as good as he's ever been. Fastballs above the hands. Slutters in on the hands. Curveballs to lock them up. Mix, repeat, mix, repeat.
Remember all those articles about why it was worth watching the Giants in a doomed season? Here you go. Heeeeeeeeere you go. Look at that game.
* * *
My 6-year-old daughter came into the room during the seventh inning and asked what was going on. I explained, "Well, see, this pitcher hasn't allowed a runner yet, and that's through seven innings. This is really rare and unusual and it almost never happens and ..."
She stopped me and said, "Daddy, you always say that."
* * *
Earlier in the day, she scored the first goal of her life, a serious rocket into the back of the net off a rebound. After Bumgarner got the last out of the game, she said, "This is a good sports day."
* * *
Madison Bumgarner almost hit an opposite-field homer in AT&T Park. That's probably more impressive than a lousy ol' one-hit shutout, right? If he actually does that, we absolutely get to throw a parade for him the next day.
* * *
Humiliating Ian Kennedy is probably better than making the postseason anyway, really.
* * *
Brandon Belt hit a hilarious, golfy dinger. Kelby Tomlinson keeps hinting that he's some sort of super-utility player to make other teams jealous and enraged. Marlon Byrd was 3-for-3 -- you might as well appreciate it now, because he's coming back -- and the bullpen didn't allow a single baserunner.
It's a little played out to reference the Ice Cube song around these parts, so I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs ever, hoping it conveys the same message: