Saturday’s story was always going to be about Madison Bumgarner. Had Bumgarner no-hit the San Francisco Giants, the story would have been about him. Had he been shellacked, and knocked out in the first inning en route to a 30-0 Giants win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the story would have been about him.
And if he did something in the middle — maybe 3 runs in 4 innings, or 2 runs in 5 innings, or 4 runs in 6 innings — the story was still going to be about him.
You wanted the Giants to win (probably). But win or lose, the story would be about Bumgarner, who was returning to Oracle Park in just his fifth game as a member of a non-Giants team.
That last option — “something in the middle” — was always the most likely, and it’s exactly what happened.
Bumgarner had an up-and-down performance in his first start against the Giants, and his return to the lineup after a stint on the Injured List. It wasn’t the disaster that some of his earlier starts were, but it wasn’t good, and he took the loss to fall to 0-4 on the year.
I mentioned in the gamethread that the key for the Giants could be the long ball. They’ve been hitting home runs more frequently this year than in a long time, and Bumgarner entered the game having given up 7 dingers in just 17.1 innings.
I’m not trying to brag here. I’m not trying to paint myself as the type of math-majoring genius who can look at two glaringly obvious, related trends and try and paint a narrative with them.
But I’m not trying to not do those things either.
After Bumgarner set down the Giants in order in the first inning (and the cutouts go wild!), he started the second by allowing a thunderous home run to Evan Longoria, which tied the game.
Longo took MadBum deep. pic.twitter.com/S9wNcaosyQ— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 6, 2020
The next batter, Darin Ruf, one-upped his teammate by clearing dead center with ease.
Ruf made it back-to-back homers off MadBum. pic.twitter.com/T0w11yLdwp— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 6, 2020
Longoria’s shot left the bat at 107.2 mph and went 390 feet, per Statcast. Ruf’s? 109.5 mph and 453 feet.
It was the first time all year the Giants had gone back-to-back, and just like that they led.
Bumgarner wouldn’t give up any more runs, though he only made it through 4 innings. It wasn’t an inspiring performance, but it helped an ERA that was north of 9.00 entering the game.
The Giants would add on against Arizona’s bullpen, again going back-to-back: but this time it was RBI triples off the bats of Joey Bart and Mauricio Dubón.
B ay— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 6, 2020
@jbart9gt | #SFGiants pic.twitter.com/cnVNsyNs4J
Both of those players had two-hit games, which was great to see. Bart is starting to find rhythm again, and Dubón bouncing back from a very rough mistake on Friday was a happy sight.
That gave the Giants a 4-1 lead, and while the bullpen gave back two of those runs, they hung on for the 4-3 win.
One of the tough parts of being an MLB manager is all the hindsight couch managers telling you how to deal with your bullpen. It’s always easy to spot a mistake after the fact (or even as it’s happening), but less easy to spot a good move.
Kapler made a really good move. He took out starter Trevor Cahill in just the third inning, despite Cahill having given up only 1 run. Cahill wasn’t missing bats — he had just four swing-and-misses on 42 pitches — and the Diamondbacks were making hard contact.
It’s pretty rare to take a starter out in the third inning when they’ve limited damage, but it felt like Cahill had 20 leaks in the boat and was keeping the water at bay with some postage stamps. It was only a matter of time before things failed.
Kapler preempted the failure, and while it probably wasn’t fun for Cahill to have to march off the mound so early, it helped the team. It also left the Giants needing 6.1 innings from their bullpen, but they proved up to the task, with Tony Watson sealing things shut in the ninth inning.
The hits were great, and so was the managing and the relievers, but what we’ll remember is Madison Bumgarner standing on the mound at Oracle Park, blowing snotrockets and throwing cutters, and not wearing a Giants jersey.
Hopefully next time that happens there will be fans in attendance, and Buster Posey in the batter’s box.