The stage was set for a perfect evening at the ballpark.
Metallica took over the game time festivities for a night set aside in the band’s honor. Willie Mays looked on from his suite as his team, Vin Scully, Tony Bennett and President Obama — via video message — wished him a happy 85th birthday.
To top it off, Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ ace, took the mound and helped redirect the Giants (16-15) after a two-loss skid, boosting them to a 6-4 win over the Rockies (14-15) on Friday night.
Luck, at first, didn’t look like it was going to fall in San Francisco’s favor. Rockies’ second baseman DJ LeMahieu made a diving stop off returning Joe Panik‘s sharp line drive and Gerardo Parra snagged Matt Duffy‘s long fly ball 399 feet out.
The Rockies offense kept rallying after last night’s 17-run drubbing, grabbing four runs (three earned) from Bumgarner in the second inning. It started with a Nolan Arenado bloop hit he churned out for a double and Mark Reynolds leapt on the first-pitch for an RBI single that whizzed by Brandon Crawford‘s glove. A Panik error extended the inning and the Rockies tacked on three more runs. Bumgarner was not pleased:
“17 broken bats, bloops, it was frustrating, but that’s the way the game is sometimes. That’s what makes it fun to battle through those and get a win for your team.”
Luckily for the Giants, the battle back tonight was an easier climb. Crawford answered right back with a three-run bomb that cleared Levi’s Landing, cutting the Rockies’ lead to one and fired up an already frustrated Bumgarner, said Crawford:
“There definitely was a momentum shift, we needed to get something going and fortunately I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Crawford added, in jest:
“If we had a decent strength coach, we might be able to hit one in the water, but we’re stuck with Carl.”
Crawford hit a splash hit foul last night and hit the bananas out of a decent curveball — he’s first on the list of guys that will probably hit the next, much anticipated, splash hit.
Bruce Bochy said Crawford’s long ball — which hung in the air long enough to confuse and even silence an amped crowd — turned it all around:
“That was, I thought, a really critical at bat in the game. You’re down four and you get a three run homer, it’s back to the ballgame and you’re back in it.”
After that, the pieces just fell into place.
Bumgarner went into overdrive, tossing 5.1 more scoreless innings and striking out 10 with 108 pitches on his way. His final pitch of the game, a two-seamer that whiffed Carlos Gonzalez in the eighth, was his 55th on the season.
He left the mound with a celebratory snotrocket, leading the MLB in strikeouts and just one above the seemingly untouchable Clayton Kershaw. Bumgarner didn’t know he’d passed his SoCal rival, but smiled through his humble response:
“Well he’s got, like, two fewer starts than me.”
Bumgarner will tell you, time again, that numbers mean nothing. He’s a stickler when it comes to his mechanics; he’s never fully satisfied with his performance no matter how sharp he looks from an outsider’s perspective:
“I’m a perfectionist, so it’s not exactly how I wanted, but when you’re out there, you sometimes have to throw that aside and just compete and that’s what I did.”
Bumgarner’s 7-1/3 inning outing marked his longest — and one of his best. Pitch count caught up to him in his six-inning shutout performance in New York, but Friday night he recovered almost seamlessly from that long second inning.
The powerful Rockies were biting his curveball and chasing his slider. But Bochy had seen enough once Bumgarner reached his 10th strikeout. Bumgarner has never had enough:
“I couldn’t tell you a time I did want to (come out). I could sit there and throw the whole game every time if they let me. But I’m never gonna be mad when we got guys like Cory Gearrin coming in, he’s nasty and he can get us out of jams.”
Gearrin entered the game with Trevor Story already on base and gave up a single to Arenado. He cleared up the jam by striking out Mark Reynolds and getting Ryan Raburn to ground into a force out. Bochy said he’s glad to have a guy like Gearrin with George Kontos and Sergio Romo in repair:
“He’s got great stuff and he wants to be out there. He has that mentality, he wants to be out there late in the ballgame against tough hitters.”
Bumgarner’s offense made sure he got the win. Duffy got another good chunk of a pitch and drilled a triple to the alley to score Denard Span, who’d reached on a sly bunt hit, to tie it up in the fifth.
Belt, who’d walked twice before, wanted in on the party. He pulled a double on a two-strike fastball to send a speedy Duffy, who’d walked, home.
To top it off, Santiago Casilla struck out two batters for the save.
Happy Birthday, Willie.