Giants smash Cubs with Bumgarner on mound

Before Thursday’s rubber match against the Cubs, Bruce Bochy told a story about his starter Madison Bumgarner:

“The game he pinch hit in St. Louis, two outs nobody on, put him out there. Got out. He came into my office, after the game, said he felt like he lost the game. He said ‘I’m sorry’…he felt horrible. I said ‘you’re kidding me right.’ But that’s his makeup.”

Bumgarner (W, 16-6, 2.97 ERA) is even-keeled yet intense; easily angered but remains cool as steel. He’s a fearsome hurler that can also hit.  Bum’s struck a perfect balance this August, and he is all in, no matter how blasé he seems:

“I don’t feel like I’m mad. I mean, I get mad sometimes but I can get rid of it. … I try to keep it as simple I can.”

Bum faced the Cubs for the first time this season and let loose, striking out all but two batters he faced, 12 total, in the Giants’ 9-1 win. His 16th win plops him atop the win column with Jake Arrieta.

He wasn’t too efficient today, much like his last start in Pittsburgh, but his stuff was just crazy enough to work through six innings.

He left the mound with 98 pitches under his belt, he hit 50 in the third. The Cubs could only get to him in the second when Anthony Rizzo notched a leadoff single and Starlin Castro doubled him home to give Chicago their only run of the game. Bochy was pleased:

“Bum was Bum today. … You saw the strikeouts, it’s evident he had good stuff. We had a chance to give him a break, we’ve riding him pretty hard this month. He was close to 100 pitches so I was comfortable with where we were with the bullpen. That allowed us to give him a little break.”

To sum up Bumgarner’s 5-0 August: he’s tallied 53 strikeouts in 27 innings and walked just four and he’s averaging less than 2 walks per nine innings. He’s given up six earned runs, none of which have come off home runs.

But let’s take a step back here. The injury-plagued Giants’ last line of defense, or offense, put up nine runs against the Cubs.

That wasn’t supposed to happen. It also wasn’t supposed to happen when Joe Panik filled in for a very injured Marco Scutaro and busted Dan Uggla last year or when Matt Duffy filled in for a slumping Casey McGehee earlier this year.

The rookies have gone wild.

This time around, Kelby Tomlinson‘s beaten all expectations filling in for an injured Panik.

Today, he crushed his first Major League home run, a grand slam, in the eighth inning to pile a couple more onto a four-run lead. The last rookie to hit a rookie grand slam was Brandon Crawford in 2011.

It was a tear-inducing moment. ‘Tommy’, as Bochy likes to call him, kept a serious mug on as he rounded the bases. Marlon Byrd, who scored on the homer, wasn’t having it:

“He was trying to hold it in. I didn’t want him to hold it in.”

Tommy’s warmup at second the following inning played on the big board behind him and the crowd rose for a loud ovation, forcing Kelby’s perma-smile.

Tomlinson, admittedly not a home run hitter, said it’s something you dream about as a kid playing ball in the backyard. He saw a familiar curveball from Cubs reliever James Russell and went for it:

“It took a little second for it to sink in that it was a grand slam… During the game I’m usually pretty locked in and don’t smile too much but I don’t think I could get a smile off my face during that.”

Duffy, the latest call-up-turned-star said the clubhouse mojo creates a comfortable environment for rookies to shine. There’s no talking down, no unequal treatment, the big guys rely on the new ones:

“Hunter came up to me and said, ‘hey we’re gonna need you to win games. Here’s a guy I watched growing up, in the minors, when he was giving speeches in 2012. When he comes up to you and says he needs you, that’s a good feeling.”

The Giants don’t see the number of fallen men as a disadvantage, but a chance for guys like Tomlinson, Duffy and Panik to show what they’ve got.

“You’re here to win games. You’re not just here to exist.”

The other big hit of the night came from resident vet Marlon Byrd, who rocketed a three-run dinger deep to center field in the third off Cubs starter Dan Haren  (L, 8-9, 3.90 ERA).

Nori Aoki was a couple inches away from a home run twice today. The first in the fourth when a Splash 69-worthy ball curved just feet from the foul pole and into the water.

The second came in the sixth when he launched a line drive down the third base line that Chris Denorfia couldn’t snag.

The ball and Denorfia fumbled around the outfield as Aoki rounded second, prompting him to attempt an inside-the-parker that the Cubs cut off just in time, said Bochy:

“I think Roberto was holding him, great play on their part. Exciting play, but he missed two home runs probably by two feet.”

The Giants take two of three from the Cubs while the Dodger’s swept the Reds today, keeping the Giants firmly 2-1/2 games out of first. The team was watching the game around the clubhouse today, and Jake Peavy had the line of the day:

“C’mon Todd Frazier just hit a home run! It’s not that hard!”

The Giants will face the Cardinals tomorrow for a three-game series. Mike Leake and Michael Wacha are slated to face off.

NOTES

Bochy knew reporter’s wanted injury updates, and there are a lot, so he broke it down in one breath:

“Gregor’s doing better, his status is more than just pinch hitting. Could go in a double switch. Crawford’s improving, might need another day or two with Crawford. Joe Panik came up and took ground balls, ran on the field for the first time. Hope is this weekend he’ll take batting practice. Pagan went nine innings last night, he’s on his way back here and we’ll evaluate him, but he came out of that fine, might make call tomorrow. Pence is still in rehab mode, not doing baseball activities.” 


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