The Cubs came to San Francisco feeling good about the slate of Giants starters they’d face.
A rookie and a vet watered down that record to 19-9, capped with the Giants’ 3-1 series winner Wednesday afternoon.
Blach made the first dent, dismantling the Cubs’ lineup a second time around for his eighth win of the year. Bumgarner was next. He quietly mowed through seven innings on 92 pitches, allowing just five hits and seven strikeouts; his offense scraped three whole runs together to ensure his second win of the year.
The takeaway: The Cubs scored three runs with 11 hits and 10 strikeouts in two losses against Blach and Bumgarner.
In 48 hours the Giants gave us a glimpse at what they could have been, as they have done so often in hot flashes this season, but more importantly what they can be in 2018. Blach and Bumgarner packed a potent one-two punch, reminiscent of the Bumgarner-Cueto one from early 2016. That’s the kind of recipe for success Bruce Bochy and his team are familiar with:
“That’s going to be crucial for us to get back into what we need, which is our strength…That’s who we are so it’s important we throw the ball well over the next seven, eight weeks.”
Six starts into his dirt bike return and it’s safe to say Bumgarner is up for that challenge. He’s run a 1.38 ERA over his last four starts, all of which came against contenders. Bruce Bochy didn’t see this Bumgarner was too far off after a relatively rough pair of starts against the Padres upon his return:
“His stuff’s the same, command is right there — he made the one mistake.”
That mistake was a fastball to Albert Almora Jr., who knocked a laser shot into left to go along with the Cubs’ four other hits off the lefty. It was also their only run.
Bumgarner (W, 2-5, 2.71 ERA) probably had at least one more inning in him, but a 1-1 game beckoned a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Kelby Tomlinson struck out, but Denard Span and Ryder Jones managed a pair of unlikely singles before resurgent hero Jarrett Parker poked a go-ahead single the other way. Bumgarner would get his win on its last leg.
It was the hit that eluded them in a frustrating few innings against Kyle Hendricks.
Hendricks was wild and the Giants wouldn’t bite, forcing him to deal 97 pitches in 4-2/3 innings, one of his shortest starts.
He kept the big hit off limits, though, as Giants hitters went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position against him, only able to get an early 1-0 lead with Joe Panik‘s single, scoring Pablo Sandoval from third.
Getting Hendricks out of the game early was the next best thing. Parker finished the one-run rally against Brian Duensing (L, 0-1, 2.45 ERA).
“He quick pitched me and I just spazzed out.”
Spazzing out is Pence’s go-to move, but before this home stand mechanical issues have made the spaz outs unsuccessful. For Pence, and others, production at the plate seems to have gone a little smoother with fresh blood on the bench.
Parker is hitting .416 with eight RBI and five doubles since his return. Sandoval, who Bochy credits for bringing some much-needed energy to the clubhouse, has scored three runs in his four games since a more controversial return, batting .333.
Sandoval won’t take credit for pumping life into the losing clubhouse:
“These guys have great energy. It’s not about me, it’s about the 25 guys on the roster…I don’t take credit, Bochy is the best manager, one of the greatest, but it’s all about the team.”
Pence mentioned that Sandvoal told him, first thing, that “he really missed this place.” Vendors are back to selling Panda hats in the stands, the same ones perched front and center on mannequins’ heads at the Giants Dugout store on Third street. He has a locker next to new teammate Johnny Cueto, who went on Instagram live shortly after the game (as he does often) and Sandoval was sitting with him, joking around.
Sandoval even made a patent Kung Fu Panda play at third Wednesday, said Bochy:
“He looks close to being the Pablo we saw earlier.”
Sam Dyson recorded his ninth save in eight tries. Hunter Strickland pitched a scoreless eighth. The Bullpen has posted a .81 ERA over their last nine games.
And, hey, the Giants went 6-3 on the home stand, claiming series wins over two playoff contenders.
2018, here they come.
The Giants are headed to Washington to play the Nationals, then Miami on a six-game road trip. Chris Stratton will start Friday and Matt Moore will Start Sunday (with Jeff Samardzija in between).
Brandon Belt is not traveling with the team after getting hit in the head with a pitch Friday. No timetable for a return yet.