Tonight was supposed to be a night for fanfare and strike outs and snot rockets and Madison Bumgarner hitting a dinger off the Coke bottle. We got two of those things. Three if you count all the strike outs the Giants hitters had. Madison Bumgarner’s long-awaited return from an injury (which totally wasn’t his fault) was spoiled by Patrick Corbin pushing the Giants into an open manhole.
For much of tonight, the Giants were within one swing of the bat from tying the game or taking the lead, including the final at-bat of the game, but it never felt that close. Every inning was a Sisyphean nightmare where the Giants would toil to get runners on, strike out to end the inning, and repeat the whole thing the next time up. They left 21 runners on base and had three hits with runners in scoring position, and yet they scored only the two runs.
Coming into tonight, Giants starters were 12th in the league in ERA, 10th in the league in FIP, and 12th in the league in xFIP. It’s not terrible—the Cubs are right ahead of them in most categories and their rotation is supposed to be great—but it’s not good either. In other words, the Giants have missed Madison Bumgarner.
Bumgarner didn’t have his best stuff tonight. His changeup looked sharp, but he didn’t seem to have command of his fastball in the early innings. He wasn’t busting right handers in on the thumbs like he normally does, but he pitched well. In six innings, he allowed eight hits, gave up two runs, and struck out three.
It’s not the most impressive line you’ll see from Bumgarner, but he still succeeded in making hitters look foolish.
Bumgarner wasn’t at his best, but if anyone else in the rotation had an outing with the same line, the bards would be writing songs about them. What a treat it is to have a pitcher have a so-so night and still have a quality start.
The Giants could hardly get a starter to go six all May, and Bumgarner did it at maybe 80% capacity. He left the game at 82 pitches, so he could have gone deeper, too. But there’s no point in pushing a starter just coming back from injury.
He didn’t come out and throw a complete game or have double-digit strikeouts. He didn’t take the mound on a horse. He didn’t hit a dinger off the Coke bottle. Regardless, there was a lot to be happy about.
Welcome back, Madison Bumgarner. Maybe next time the offense will score some runs for you.
The odds of that happening are a lot higher than they were tonight because the next time Bumgarner starts, Patrick Corbin won’t be starting against him. Back in April, Corbin took a no-hitter against the Giants into the eighth inning. Tonight, he was perfect through three innings. Not only that, the Giants didn’t the ball out of the infield in the first three innings.
Andrew McCutchen was the first Giant to reach base, and he did so in the fourth inning of a bloop that could have been caught. The way things began, I wouldn’t have been surprised if that was the only baserunner they earned all night.
But after that, the Giants were able to threaten, but they could never find the big hit. In the fifth, they managed to load the bases after a Joe Panik walk, but Panik was hitting eighth for some reason, so that brought up Madison Bumgarner.
Last night, the game-winning hit came from Alen Hanson who pinch hit for Derek Holland in the fourth. A night ago, Bruce Bochy was ready to take a starter out early in a high-leverage situation. Tonight, he decided to stay with his pitcher.
This isn’t second-guessing. This wasn’t a bad move. It’s to highlight the difference Madison Bumgarner makes to a team. You can leave him in with the game on the line and innings left in his arm because honestly, he’s probably going to finish his career with a higher wRC+ than Alen Hanson.
How rad would it have been if Bumgarner lined a single to left right there? The answer is a lot radder than what actually happened, which was Bumgarner struck out because he was looking fastball and got a slider in a 2-2 count.
After Bumgarner struck out, Gorkys Hernandez and Buster Posey struck out to end the inning. That would not be the last time Buster Posey would end a bases-loaded threat for the Giants. In the seventh, Posey flied out to waste another Belt-esque walk by Hunter Pence.
Even though he ended the Giants’ two best scoring opportunities, Posey kept the game alive in the ninth with a single to score Alen Hanson, so nobody had to make any dumb jokes about Joey Bart taking Posey’s job by the end of the year.
Mark Melancon is probably ready to start closing games again. The only baserunner he’s allowed since coming back from the DL came on a dropped third strike, and that doesn’t count. He’s only allowed a baserunner because he got a hitter to swing at a pitch so bad that the catcher couldn’t even catch it. He’s made quick work of the other batters he’s faced, striking out five in two innings. His velocity has been fine and the stuff looks great.
I’m eager to see Melancon dominate not only because it satisfies my desire to watch dudes in cream-colored pajamas do good baseball things, but also because it will silence the proverbial dude sitting at the bar who complains loudly about dudes in cream-colored pajamas making too much money.
The winning streak is dead. Long live the winning streak.
Start another one tomorrow, Giants.