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Madison Bumgarner throws one-hit masterpiece, Giants sweep Diamondbacks

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The Giants have the best record in baseball at the All-Star break, and Madison Bumgarner has never been better.

This guy. This guy right here.
This guy. This guy right here.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In the final game of the first half of the 2016 season, Madison Bumgarner threw a one-hit shutout to complete a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks. The win helped the Giants improve to 57-33, which is the best record in baseball.

There are ways to make that opening paragraph better. It could have been a no-hitter. It could have been a perfect game. It could have been a four-game sweep. Could have been a four-game sweep against the Dodgers. And they could be 67-23 or 77-13. But, my stars, look at that opening paragraph. We’re at the traditional halfway point of the season, past the mathematical halfway point, and the Giants have the best record in baseball. They’re looking good doing it, too.

We're all so spoiled.

Remember this when you complain about Adam Duvall slipping away during the Home Run Derby on Monday night. Remember how spoiled you are. You don’t have to feel guilty. Just giggle more. Live it up a little. In the final game of the first half of the 2016 season, Madison Bumgarner threw a one-hit shutout to complete a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks. The win helped the Giants improve to 57-33, which is the best record in baseball. Keep reading that, over and over again.

For the second time in 10 months, Bumgarner lost a no-hitter in the eighth inning. While the default response to something like that is "He’ll throw a no-hitter someday, don’t worry," that’s not always the case. Roger Clemens never threw a no-hitter. Greg Maddux never threw a no-hitter. Pitchers don’t get a no-hitter like a gold watch when they retire just because they were talented and loyal. This might have been the best chance he’ll ever have.

At the same time, he’ll throw a no-hitter someday. Don’t worry. How can you disagree after watching that? Bumgarner made opposing hitters look uncomfortable all night, dusting off an ungodly curveball for the first time this year, using it more than he’s used it for over a year. The Diamondbacks kept swinging over the top, forever expecting the cutter on the hands, which was probably coming next. If you want to use Bill James’s Game Score, Sunday night was tied for Bumgarner’s best start ever. If you don’t want to compare them, I’d understand. They’re like your children. Jimmy is better at piano, Marigold is better at math, and Ray is better at holding smaller children down and getting sent to the office. They’re all different shades of the same beautiful, and you don’t want to choose.

This was up there, though. This was an all-time Bumgarner start, likely better than his one-hitter against the Padres last year, likely as good as his one-hitter against the Rockies in 2014. I’m not going to lie, I was a little crushed by the Giants’ decision to skip Albert Suarez and keep Bumgarner out of the All-Star Game, which he would have likely started. The Giants have a relatively impressive history of pitchers starting the All-Star Game, even if the baseball gods usually smite them down, and Bumgarner would have fit in perfectly with that legacy.

This was much better. Madison Bumgarner got to show off in front of a national audience, and he was as impressive as he’s ever been. In the regular season. He was as impressive as he’s ever been in the regular season, and you don’t need some college-educated blog nerd to explain that in words. Look at how miserable the Diamondbacks looked all night. Look at how rarely you were worried that a ball was going to fall in for a hit. This was as magnificent as he’s ever pitched.

But it wasn’t as magnificent as he can possibly pitch, in theory. There’s still that no-hitter out there. The carrot is still dangling. Don’t curse Jake Lamb; he cursed the rest of the National League by leaving that carrot there. There’s still something in this game that Bumgarner hasn’t done yet, and he’s going to bite through maple trees with his teeth until he does it.

Note: It’s possible that he already hates every opposing batter more than I’ve ever hated anything in my life, so the motivation might not be a factor. The no-hitter might emerge out of his cauldron of simmering baseball rage or it might not.

Regardless, that’s about as well as Madison Bumgarner can pitch, and he finished off a sweep against a division rival. The Giants finished the first half with the best record in baseball, three games ahead of the second-place team.

That’s pretty good, right? Seems pretty good.

* * *

Three Giants have finished the first half with an ERA under 2.00 since moving to San Francisco in 1958: Juan Marichal (1965) and Atlee Hammaker (1983).

Maybe it’s a good thing that Bumgarner isn’t appearing in the All-Star Game.

Though it should be pointed out that Hammaker was considered a young Giants arm at the time, a real up-and-comer. He was about a year younger than Bumgarner is now, except Bumgarner has already packed in a career’s worth of achievements into his time on this planet.

You should probably start appreciating Madison Bumgarner is what I’m saying. You’ve been overlooking him for too long, and it’s about time you realize that he’s good at baseball pitching.

* * *

There was a part of me that wanted Bumgarner to complete the no-hitter, not just for the obvious reasons and the happy-fun time, but because it would have made everyone grumble about Gregor Blanco’s error costing him the perfect game. That would have given me the opportunity to bloviate about chaos theory and sequencing, and how Juan Uribe was responsible for Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter, not responsible for a blown perfect game.

Instead, we watched a game for three hours, and all we got was this lousy one hitter. And it had to be Jake Lamb. Although I would say the same thing about Paul Goldschmidt, so maybe we shouldn’t complain about Lamb too much.

Still, Jake Lamb goes in the jerk bin with Paul O’Neill and Eric Chavez. You have a mark of jerk upon you, son, and this curse will follow you around for the rest of your days. You might win championships or MVPs, but just know that whenever I see you, I’ll think only of the regular season accomplishment that you ruined.


* * *

Reminder that Brandon Crawford isn’t an All-Star. This was a secretly frustrating game, as the Giants were just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. But one of those two hits came from Crawford, who drove in three runs and raised his OPS to .800 on the season. Did we mention that he’s the best defensive shortstop in the game, give or take?

I know that RBI are a junk stat, or at least, they’re not nearly as important as we’ve been told our whole lives, but it still impresses the heck out of me that Crawford is a Gold Glove shortstop who has more RBI than Paul Goldschmidt. Again, that has to do with overall lineup strength, opportunity, excellent-if-unrepeatable timing, and other doo-dads. Don’t take RBI as the reason Crawford should win the MVP.

But use them to remember all the fun you’ve had watching Crawford driving in runs. Don’t forget that this season started with him being a curious example of runs that weren’t getting knocked in. He had six runs batted in in April. Six! Or, twice as many as he just had on Sunday night.

Since then, from May through the rest of the All-Star break, he’s been the equivalent of a 140-RBI hitter. Again, I know that has more to do with extraneous factors. At the same time, hot dog, look at this Gold Glove shortstop hitting like Stan Musial or some nonsense over the last two-and-a-half months. It’s something we can all get used to.

He’s not an All-Star, though. That brings up the important question that’s been on my mind all night: Will he ever be as talented as Addison Russell or Aledmys Diaz?

Only time will tell, Giants fans. Only time will tell.

* * *

In the final game of the first half of the 2016 season, Madison Bumgarner threw a one-hit shutout to complete a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks. The win helped the Giants improve to 57-33, which is the best record in baseball.