Like so many times before, manager Bruce Bochy handed his ace the ball needing not just a win but a break for his bullpen.
And like so many times before Madison Bumgarner (W, 13-6, 3.15 ERA) obliged.
The lefty’s impressive 12-strikeout one-run complete game was enough to give the overworked Giants bullpen a rest and keep his team in the game.
And first baseman Brandon Belt took care of the rest as his two-homer night sealed a much needed 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros to kickoff the homestead.
Coming off a four-game sweep at the hands of the now second wild card team Chicago Cubs, the Giants needed to turn the tides before their season began to fall apart.
On the broad shoulders of their stud pitcher, they did just that against one of the American Leagues best teams.
Of Bumgarner’s performance Bochy said:
“He’s got everything. … He’s just a big strong guy with great stuff, and those guys, we call them horses, you can ride them.”
On an inside slider, and with the Astros attempting a double steal, Buster Posey fired to third nabbing the AL’s stolen base leader, Altuve.
Bumgarner called the throw “a huge momentum shift.” The swing of momentum was much more successful than that of the next seven Houston hitters, as each went down on strikes.
Catcher Buster Posey had the best seat in the house for the historic feat:
“He was getting ahead of hitters, and he was able to finish them off. When he’s got that good curveball going,that makes the fastball and the cutter/slider even more difficult.”
In the bottom of the first, it appeared that the Giants would get a much needed early run, when third baseman Matt Duffy hammered an 0-1 cutter to deep center.
Gomez, one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders made a tremendous leaping catch as he collided with the wall in front of the kale garden.
Even Gomez’s defense, though, wasn’t going to keep the Giants off the board in the fourth when Belt connected with a 3-2 fastball and deposited it in the seats in right-center:
“I’m not sure exactly what he was trying to do with it, but it was left over the middle of the plate and I put a good swing on it and I hit it hard.”
Two innings later Belt took his next at bat and, after dodging a fastball up near his shoulders, he got a slider down and away. As if it were a response to the chin music, Belt sent another round tripper into the left field seats.
The two homers were enough to tie Belt for his career high in a season (17 in 2013). It also gives hime seven bombs in his last 10 hits dating back to his only other multi-homer game this season on Aug. 1.
Of Belt’s hot bat, Posey said:
“When he gets hot he can get rolling as good as anybody I’ve ever seen. Hopefully he can sustain this for a while.”
The Giants would score another run, on a pair of singles (combining for 30 feet) and a throwing error by Astro starting pitcher Scott Kazmir (L, 6-7, 2.12 ERA) later in the sixth.
The bonus run would prove unnecessary however, as Bumgarner would continue to roll in his fourth double-digit strikeout game of the season, and 23rd of his career.
Bumgarner broke down his performance:
“Tonight everything was working for us. We were making pitches and we got a lot of strike outs early but (were) able to get some quick innings to keep the pitch count down.”
Having seized complete control of the game, the only question was whether or not Bumgarner would get the chance to finish what her started.
According to Bochy, it wasn’t a question for long as the look he came into the dugout with after the eighth inning said ‘why are you even asking me’ as the skipper checked on his ace.
Bumgarner’s stellar outing was certainly a tough act to follow as rookie Chris Heston takes the mound in a day game on Wednesday to close out the quick two-game series.
The Astros will counter with Bay Area native Scott Feldman, as Houston looks to return the favor while the Giants will attempt to retain the momentum granted to them by Bumgarner and Belt.