The 2019 San Francisco Giants season is one long audition for Madison Bumgarner.
Is he so good that Farhan Zaidi is forced to trade away a franchise hero, and get some assets while he can? Is he good enough that he’s worth extending, but not good enough to trade? Is he so mediocre that they trade him just hoping some owner is screaming “2014! 2014! Did you not watch 2014?!” in the ear of their GM? Is he - gulp - bad?
Every start carries that intrigue, and in the case of Friday’s start, Bumgarner did a little bit of it all.
In the bottom of the first, Bumgarner retired the first two batters. Then he allowed a walk, then a single, then a double, then a single, then another single.
After one inning, here was the score:
Pittsburgh Pirates (Friday’s first inning): 4
San Francisco Giants (all first innings): 0
And then, just like that, Bumgarner shifted into a different mode. After allowing four hits, one walk, and four runs on 38 first inning pitches, the lefty started locating his command, and his control.
He pitched five more innings, allowing just two hits, no walks, and no runs, while striking out six. He needed just 62 pitches.
If the first Bumgarner was “welp, hang onto him, because no one’s buying” MadBum, then the second Bumgarner was “pick up the phone, Farhan!!” MadBum.
And, in all likelihood, the real Bumgarner is somewhere in between.
That first inning ended up being the ball game. Almost literally. Things happened, of course, and it was worth watching if you like baseball.
Nothing happened that changed the “4” following “PIT,” and the gorgeous, lovely, perfectly symmetrical “0” that preceded “SF” almost made it through the whole game intact.
The Giants tried some things. In the second, a double by Evan Longoria gave the Giants runners at second and third, with one out. Kevin Pillar hit a fly ball to right field, and old friend Melky Cabrera looked like he hadn’t aged a bit (there are things to help with that, I hear) and threw out Crawford by a mile.
It wasn’t the only out the Giants made on the basepaths. Crawford hit into an inning-ending double-play in the fourth. Joe Panik hit the snot out of a baseball, just to be rewarded with a double play out of it in the sixth.
The stranded leadoff runners in the third and the seventh.
In the eighth, they got a baserunner in the worst possible way. Yangervis Solarte hit a popup, and shortstop Erik Gonzalez and centerfielder Starling Marte collided in their pursuit of the baseball.
It wasn’t a little collision. It was a cover your eyes collision. Both players were at full speed, and neither ever saw the other one coming. Gonzalez’s shoulder went directly into Marte’s collarbones and neck, and the two fell to the ground where they stayed for many, many minutes. Eventually Gonzalez got up and walked off the field, but Marte took a few minutes longer, before standing up and getting carted off.
Hopefully they’re okay.
Once again, the Giants failed to capitalize. Steven Duggar drew a walk, to put two on with just one out. Panik got caught looking, Posey singled in the Giants only run of the game, and Brandon Belt followed with a popout.
The Giants made a double switch in the bottom of the seventh, and it allowed Duggar to move back to his natural position, centerfield. No sooner had they made the move when the baseball gods and goddesses gifted Duggar the opportunity to show off.
And show off he did, with a perfect route followed by a balletic catch, that I can’t show you because of MLB’s silliness.
Just imagine a perfect break, followed by a flawless route, followed by a Simone Biles-esque leap. Imagine it. You’ll like it.
In addition to Cabrera, the Giants saw old friend Kyle Crick, who struck out Kevin Pillar with two runners on and two outs. Thanks, Kyle. After all the support we showed you. Real classy, man.
The game started an hour and 25 minutes late due to rain. This had no tangible effect on the game that I’m aware of, but it does feel like a detail that should be mentioned.
The Giants lost 4-1. That’s the real part that should probably be mentioned.