Madison Bumgarner‘s return to the Giants wasn’t exactly triumphant, as the Giants took a 3-1 loss Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
Nevertheless, Bumgarner (L, 0-1, 3.00 ERA) earned a quality start and what he gave the Giants (30-31), against most pitcher not named Patrick Corbin, would likely have been more than enough to come away with a ‘W.’
Instead, the Arizona lefty was dominant muffling the San Francisco bats and bringing to an end the Giants’ five-game winning streak while pushing them back below .500 and further behind the division-leading Diamondbacks (32-28).
When Bumgarner walked onto the field, an uninformed onlooker could’ve been forgiven for thinking that he was coming in to pitch a playoff game or the high-pressure ninth of a close, complete game. He received a standing ovation before he even threw a pitch, and fans remained on their feet as he tossed his warm-up pitches.
When the frame reached its crescendo, as he prepared to throw a 3-2 cutter to coax a ground out from John Ryan Murphy bringing to an end a scoreless first, fans got to their feet to offer their support once again. All this in just the first inning.
“MadBum” was missed by his City.
Aside from a single off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt his first frame was clean, but the second inning was a struggle. The D-Backs led off with back-to-back doubles and were making loud contact. He threw only 13 pitches in the inning, but Arizona got two on the board.
A two-run deficit in the second inning wouldn’t seem insurmountable if the Giants weren’t facing yet another of Arizona’s lights-out hurlers in Corbin (W, 6-2, 2.87 ERA). The lefty had a no-hitter going into the fourth and Giants hitters could do nothing with his breaking balls.
When the D-Backs threatened again in the third, though, two guys who’ve spent a lot of time in the trenches with Bumgarner snuffed the uprising before it could come to fruition.
David Peralta led off with a single, Goldschmidt followed with his second single of the game, and things were getting hairy with no outs. But after a fielder’s choice that moved the runners over, Brandon Crawford snared a chopper to short off of Murphy’s bat and fired a strike home to Buster Posey who applied a perfect tag to get Goldschmidt out at the plate. Ketel Marte grounded into a harmless double play to end the threat without allowing a run.
“Good read by Craw. There wasn’t a chance to get two [outs] on that ball and he made the right decision. That’s a big out.”
In shutting down Arizona’s attempt at a third-inning rally in such a decisive fashion the mood seemed to shift and Bumgarner hit his stride. With that settled, the Giants offense finally got to Corbin in the fifth and they were set up for a very big inning.
San Francisco swatted back-to-back doubles, reminiscent of the damage Bumgarner sustained in the second, to get on the board making it 2-1. And because the baseball gods have a flair for the dramatic, in an already epic return for the San Francisco ace, a single and a walk followed, bringing Bumgarner, the most productive hitting pitcher of this generation, to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded.
The Giants were one swing of the bat from having a truly fairy tale return for their star pitcher, but it was not to be. Not only did Bumgarner strike out, but Corbin thumbed his nose at San Francisco’s attempt at a rally by striking out the next two Giants, even shutting down the threat of Posey, to escape the inning having allowed just the one run.
Manager Bruce Bochy pulled Bumgarner for Mark Melancon after six innings and 82 pitches, more a factor of the big lefty’s pitch count than anything. The plan had been to stay around 90. His debut went to plan in every way except the one-run deficit upon his exit. He had given up eight hits and just the two runs in the second.
In fact Bumgarner felt pretty good about his pitching as far as the game being his first of the season after a long rehab and Bochy agreed.
“I though [it was] a solid start for him for his first start back. He did a nice job with men on base pitching in traffic. He made pitches when he had to [in] that second inning, he gave up some hits, but settled down and got better as he went—six good innings.”
The Giants threatened yet another big inning in the seventh, loading the bases between Corbin and reliever Yoshihisa Hirano. Once again, Posey came up with the bases stacked with two outs. But again the Giants were unable to cash in and Hirano elicited a harmless fly ball to center.
The Diamondbacks added one more in the ninth inning against Hunter Strickland on two singles and a walk, but otherwise the bullpen kept it close.
Close enough for the Giants to come within a run of tying it up in the bottom of the ninth after Posey knocked in Alen Hanson who slapped a barely-fair (upon replay review) pinch-hit double to right. But that was all they could muster as Arizona’s Brad Boxberger (S, 14, 2.11 ERA) came up with the save.
Of the Giants failure to get the offense they needed, Bochy said:
“We just couldn’t get that big hit. We had the right guys up, but some games it just doesn’t happen.”
Ultimately Bumgarner was hung with a loss in his first game back on the mound, though his performance was encouraging to the skipper.
With such a close game, littered with so many chances to do damage, it’s likely that at least half a dozen guys in the Giants clubhouse tonight think the loss is on their shoulders.
Bumgarner was one of them. He took the Giants failure to score in the fifth inning uprising to heart, and his non-productive out was far more upsetting to him than anything he did on the other side of the ball.
“What I’d like to have back is that at-bat with the bases loaded. … You just gotta try to find a way to get a guy in [with the] bases loaded [and] no outs, there’s no excuse for it, pitcher or not. That was the difference [in the game] I think.”
The Giant’s Tuesday night loss was more collective than some in baseball, though, and if you asked the parade of hitters who came up with runners in scoring position and failed to produce (seven in total), or Strickland, who gave up the one run in the ninth, each of them would’ve taken the blame for himself.
Nevertheless, the Giants have their guy back, the one who was supposed to be on the mound for Opening Day. And going forward that could be a difference-maker this season.
When asked what it means to his teammates to have him back in action, though, Bumgarner was sheepish and loath to assign any extraordinary value to his lumbering presence and leadership in the clubhouse.
“I don’t wanna think that I’m that big a deal to them. I’m excited to get back out there and I hope they’re excited to have me back.”
But Bochy has a different story to tell:
“You got your guy back, it’s a lift for everybody [in the] rotation [and the] club. It’s good to have him back, you heard the crowd. He was excited to be back. … It does a lot for the club no question about it.”
The Giants will aim for a series win Wednesday in the final game of three against the Diamondbacks. Probable starters are right-handers Clay Bucholz (1-1, 1.5) and Chris Stratton (7-3, 4.50). In his last start Stratton pitched six scoreless innings giving up four hits and striking out seven.
Johnny Cueto (right elbow) and Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 6.56) (right shoulder) are both scheduled to throw bullpen sessions Friday in Washington. … Brandon Belt (appendicitis) started strength conditioning Monday and will continue to ramp up with light workouts as his recovery from an early morning appendectomy Saturday permits. According to manager Bochy, Belt will not travel with the team to Washington or Miami, but there’s a chance he will rejoin them for their series June 15-17 in LA against the Dodgers. … In the second day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft Tuesday the Giants selected six right-handed pitchers, an outfielder and a shortstop. Drafts were made in this order: RHP Jake Wong in the third round (80), RHP Blake Rivera in the fourth round (106), RHP Keaton Winn in the fifth round (135), OF Patrick Wilson in the sixth round (166), SS Edison Mora in the seventh round (196), RHP Solomon Bates in the eighth round (226), RHP Ben Madison in the ninth round (256), RHP Alex DuBord in the 10th round (286). All draftees are out of college except for the position players. Wilson is a high school student out of Nettleton Senior High School in Arkansas and Mora was drafted out of Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, which is also a high school.