Bruce Bochy had a hunch Friday night.
A few of his slumping players were just a step out of the clear, he assured, after his team could only score one run.
“They’re getting close,” Bochy said. “I can tell they’re getting close.”
Bochy wouldn’t divulge names, though, claiming we knew who he was talking about. Saturday night, Bochy’s hints grew crystal clear.
Joe Panik — who was hitting .130 since his return from the disabled list– went 3-for-3 including two ground-rule doubles that sparked the Giants offense to a clean 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles Saturday night.
Post-DL slumps can sprout out of prolonged rehab-to-majors adjustments. The bug’s bitten Panik big time since his return, but the second baseman said he’s seeing things clearly now:
“I felt like I knew it was coming. I felt more comfortable mechanically seeing the ball…hopefully now I can ride that wave a little bit.”
Once Panik threw down the wild card, the offense found its oft-elusive rhythm. Denard Span, one of the more consistent hitters in this rough stretch, collected a pair of two-out, two-run RBI singles to put the Giants up 4-0. The Giants had left 200 runners on this second half, Span made sure not to add four more to that list:
“We’ve left a lot of runners on so it just felt good to convert…especially with Bum on the mound.”
The pressure to score with runners on carried a little extra weight Saturday night with Madison Bumgarner on the mound. He toed the rubber shouldering eight innings of one-run ball, a 3.13 second-half ERA and five consecutive starts without a win to show for it, said Bochy:
“We’ve lost some tough ones with Bum on the mound.”
Three one-run losses with their ace on the mound this second half had the team reeling. Panik said it felt good to give him room to breathe:
“He’s been so good for us, he deserves some runs on the board.”
With goose eggs on the board and without, though, Bumgarner’s maintained his stride through the mud.
He carried the same dominant stuff from his one-run complete game loss in Washington back to San Francisco, tossing seven innings of shutout ball and striking out eight on his way.
Bumgarner tripped up once against the heart of the O’s order. He gave up a rough walk to J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado answered with a scorching double that skidded out of Span’s glove in center. Slugger Mark Trumbo popped out foul–prompting a Bumgarner fist-pump–before Jonathan Schoop worked a walk to load the bases.
No stress. Bumgarner blew three strikes by Chris Davis to quell the threat. Bumgarner wasn’t going to give in on any batter, said Bochy:
“They know how to turn it up a notch and make pitches when they have to.”
While Bumgarner was establishing his rhythmic dominance on one end, Orioles starter Kevin Gausman fell into a wild pattern, said Span:
“He was effectively wild.”
The Giants drew six walks off him, which Span said was not the plan coming into the day, and only managed two hits. An effectively wild pitching has a short shelf life, though. Gausman’s pitch count ticked all the way up to 97 through his four innings.
He surrendered the mound to the O’s dominant bullpen, who couldn’t contain a suddenly inspired Giants. Vance Worley and Ubaldo Jimenez each gave up two more runs.