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Brandon Crawford hits walk-off home run to beat Rockies, 1-0

Meanwhile, Madison Bumgarner is definitely back.

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MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Crawford’s two hits tonight reflected his new batting approach. He’s making it a point to choke up, Barry Bonds-style, when he gets to two strikes and he’s stopped worrying about getting jammed by pitches inside. Now that you know this, watch that walk-off again:

There’s a hitter who’s not afraid to go after an inside pitch. You can read his interview with Eno Sarris from earlier in the week where he talks about his two-strike adjustment, but in the meantime, I’ll just give you this quote:

“I’d like to cover the whole plate, but it’s not something I’m actively thinking about,” Crawford said. “If it’s over the plate and I think I’m on time to be able to hit it, I’m going to swing at it. Selective aggressiveness.”

Brandon Crawford has done that thing professionals do where they learn and adapt to prolong and enhance their career. He’s come along way from the glove-only guy the Giants drafted and whatever “hit” they saw in him has come to pass because of hard work and, that ever-important baseball word: adjustments.

After throwing 101 pitches in 7 innings, Madison Bumgarner hit for himself in a 0-0 game against the Rockies’ starter, Kyle Freeland. It was a 6-pitch at bat that ended with Freeland striking out Bumgarner, and while you might justifiably argue the merits of a manager letting his starting pitcher hit for himself in that situation, that at bat represented the answer to the only question the Giants were going to have for the next month: is Madison Bumgarner back? He certainly is.

Crawford’s blast was tonight’s shock, but Bumgarner’s 7 inning performance was its awe. This is his second straight scoreless start, and through 14 Rockies hitters (4.2 innings), I was trying to word a text to Grant Brisbee that would get him to come back and recap a perfect game. It’s the sports blogger’s equivalent of wanting Bumgarner for your big game.

This was by no means a Big Game, but it was important in that the Giants need these home wins badly and they needed to know where they stood with Bumgarner. 7 IP 2 H 2 BB 8 K is a line that brings peace.

The story of the start was his approach and their results against the middle of the Rockies’ order. Blackmon, Arenado, and Story all pose formidable challenges to any pitcher, but especially Arenado, who came into the game with a .430 batting average against left-handers and and 8-for-35 with 2 home runs against Bumgarner.

He threw two curveballs to Arenado in their second matchup of the evening and Arenado came within a foot of hitting the first one off the left field foul pole. The next pitch was another curveball, because Madison Bumgarner didn’t want Arenado to think he’d gotten in his head. Mental strength might come before physical strength, but physical strength can only bolster the strong mentality.

Bumgarner mixed his pitches against all three, but stayed mostly fastball-slutter with Blackmon, curveball-changeup to Arenado, and fastball-fastball to Story, and it all worked because he had full command of his pitches. His fastball had run, his changeup had sink, his curveball had break, and the slutter had no inhibitions.

In his post game interview, Crawford called the performance “vintage Bum”. I started thinking the same thing after the 2nd inning. He looked “on” right away, and while I might consider his middle inning slowdown (he needed 26 pitches to get through the 5th) the result of bad luck and fatigue, he looked stronger for longer compared to his previous starts. He’s building up strength and progressing steadily.

Now he just needs to stay away from dirt bikes and the Springfield Mystery Spot.

Bumgarner’s Game Score tonight was 79. In his last start, it was 81. His highest Game Score last season was 73. Here’s a look at his top (regular season) Game Scores:

  1. 98 (2014, 2016)
  2. 94 (twice in 2015)
  3. 92 (2014)
  4. 91 (2012)
  5. 87 (2011)
  6. 85 (2015, 2016)
  7. 84 (2012, 2016)
  8. 82 (2011, 2013, 2018)
  9. 81 (2014)
  10. 80 (2014, 2016)
  11. 79 (2015, 2016, 2018)

So, this was the 20th best start of his career and it follows the 14th-best start of his career (again, in the regular season). Say what you want about Game Score, but at least it strengthens the context: he’s fine, and he’s back.

The Giants just took a series from the Rockies, which looks weird to type, and they’ll look to sweep tomorrow. The plan has been to get healthy during this chunk of home games, and so far, it’s working out.