Bumgarner dazzles but offense flatlines in Giant loss

Bruce Bochy just wanted a quality start amid the Giants’ attempt to navigate this rocky road of a second half.

They served up their best bet in Madison Bumgarner Wednesday afternoon — he and Johnny Cueto have delivered the only two quality starts since the All-Star Break — and the ace delivered.

Bumgarner offered eight innings, five hits, two runs, one unearned and nine strikeouts; a truly Bumgarner-esque quality start Bochy was surely asking for. Yet the Giants were edged into a 2-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Bruce Bochy expressed his frustration:

“It’s disappointing when you have your starter throwing like that and you can’t get it going offensively.”

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.

Dan Straily forced the Giants bats to flatline. He gave up just three hits, including Conor Gillaspie‘s solo shot in the third inning–the Giants’ only run of the day. Straily was locating, Bochy and his team agreed:

He threw down in the strike zone with all his pitches.”

Outfielder Mac Williamson said:

“He kept us off balance all day, threw anything for a strike. And he wasn’t throwing the same sequence twice.”

They attempted half-baked rallies, making their biggest threat against a weak Reds bullpen in the bottom of the ninth. Angel Pagan hit a leadoff single and Mac Williamson torched a ground ball up the middle that Zack Cozart dove for just in time to flick Pagan out of scoring position.

Said Williamson:

“I definitely thought I got it good enough to go through.”

The 1-0 lead Gillaspie provided wouldn’t hold despite Bumgarner’s brilliance and a dominant 19 inning scoreless streak he’d accumulated on his home mound.

Bumgarner was coasting early, retiring 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. But a line drive off Eugenio Suarez‘s bat changed the game’s course. It sailed into the late-afternoon sun right into left fielder Angel Pagan‘s glove, then right back out. It was Pagan’s fifth error of the season, the most he’s accumulated since 2012. Bochy bailed his left fielder out:

“The ball was hit hard and it’s a tough play.”

Brandon Phillips, who had singled for the Reds second hit of the game, sped to third base and Suarez reached second. With an open base and Straily on deck, Bumgarner gave up a game-tying sacrifice fly to Tucker Barnhart. Bumgarner’s scoreless streak ended with an unearned run and the listless Giants suddenly faced a 1-1 tie game.

Bumgarner made one mistake that cost him the game: fittingly, Jay Bruce launched his first pitch of the seventh inning deep to right. It was the Reds eighth home run of the series, Bruce’s 25 of the season, and the Giants’ 24th allowed in 11 games.

The Reds never looked back, taking the series 2-1.

So, what’s the deal?

The Giants are clinging on to first place–the Dodgers lost to Tampa Bay Wednesday afternoon to preserve a tight 2.5 game lead–but look uninspired. Buster Posey put things into perspective:

“If we didn’t have runs like this we’d be on pace to win, like, 115 games.”

Still, its rough to fester in that rut on Bumgarner day– the ace has only received 10 runs of support in his past five starts.

Bumgarner said the rough patch doesn’t interfere with his individual performance. He’s “dealing with it.” He’s built a  1.95 ERA despite a 1-2 second-half record. Losses like these just seem magnified in light of the rut, he said:

“We have a lot of guys that have been through a lot of adversity and championship seasons. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

The Giants will have Johnny Cueto on the mound to kick off a tough four-game series against the Washington Nationals on Thursday. Joe Panik may return from his rehab assignment in time for the latter half of it — which would be a welcome sight for a this patchwork team that’s struggling to keep up with expectations.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.