The San Francisco Giants are now 0-6 in Madison Bumgarner‘s starts, mostly through no fault of his own. He’s gone at least six innings in all six games and allowed no more than three runs in each. There are two problems.
The first one Bumgarner himself put plainly:
“I gotta stop giving up home runs. That’s not going to work.”
He gave up two in the San Diego Padres‘ 5-2 win over the Giants Thursday night, marking the first time Bumgarner has given up multiple home runs in back-to-back starts as a major leaguer — to the same team, no less.
Hunter Renfroe took a Bumgarner curveball deep for a second time within the week to give the Padres an early 2-0 lead in the second. Last week’s curveball was dead, this one had much more life to it — the same can be said of his entire repertoire this time around.
The bullpen was already chugging when Bumgarner found himself behind in the count and nearing 100 pitches. Then Cory Spangenberg mashed a tie-breaking 428-foot two-run bomb off a 2-1 fastball, putting the game away for good. Said manager Bruce Bochy:
“That was his last hitter and it left the ballpark.”
It also secured his fourth loss, thanks to a half-baked effort from the offense. Which leads to the second problem.
In Bumgarner’s six starts, the offense has given him 10 total runs in return. Four of those came on Opening Day.
Jhoulys Chacin was the puzzle this time, and he has been for the Giants for years, said Bochy:
“Probably next to Kershaw, I don’t know who’s been tougher on us.”
This isn’t necessarily a superlative, in context. Chacin brought a 3-1 record and 1.95 ERA lifetime AT&T Park record to San Francisco and proved the numbers not to be flukey. He held the Giants to a Denard Span leadoff double through five innings. Brandon Belt struck out looking in yet another Giants’ failed attempt to score a run with a runner on third and less than two outs — that has proven to be a weakness in this homestand.
The top of the lineup finally cracked Chacin and gave Bumgarner false hope in the sixth with Span and Eduardo Nunez tagging back-t0-back RBI singles to tie the game. But Nunez got too feisty, after being given second on a questionable balk call, on an attempted steal at third and was tagged as his foot came off the base on ball four to Belt.
In short, and maybe obviously, Bumgarner is better than his record. Thursday he went 6-1/3, striking out five, said Bochy:
“These last two games have been pretty good starts, there’s just a lack of run support.”
Unluckiness also seems to have had a factor on Bumgarner as he’s molding back into his mid-season form. He’s making few mistakes, but the Padres — in both starts since his return — have taken them all out of the ballpark. Bumgarner is still smoothing out the kinks, but he expressed frustration in the results that have seemed unjustly pinned to his resume:
“I felt better tonight than what the box score says. … There’s no magic solution, we just have to play better.”
For a few outs, it seemed as if the Indians (with direct orders from the Red Sox, perhaps) left a secret note for the Padres to test Nunez’s agility at third. He corralled a quintet of hard hit line drives and sharp ground balls with ease, looking every bit the perfect trade chip for the Giants — until that rally-halting missed stolen base.
Posey, again, represented the go-ahead run in the eighth, this time with the bases loaded against All-Star lefty Brad Hand. His opposite-field launch fell short of a raucous grand slam, though. No come back today.
The San Francisco bullpen has been moving up the ranks lately, posting a 12th-best 3.48 ERA over the past month and 11th-best 2.76 ERA to kick off the second half.
Kyle Crick has been throwing heat, adding 2 innings of one-hit ball to six-appearance stretch in which he’s allowed just one run. He also flashed his pick-off skills, nabbing Spangenberg at first in the ninth.