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Bumgarner sets Rox up, Crawford knocks ’em out

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Wednesday night’s game opened with Madison Bumgarner‘s 1,500th strikeout, which he bestowed upon Rockies leadoff man DJ LeMahieu, a fitting milestone for the masterpiece Bumgarner went on to toss.

He pitched a seven-inning, two-hit scoreless gem on 101 pitches — 66 for strikes — with eight strikeouts. But Colorado starter Kyle Freeland ( ND, 7-6, 3.29 ERA) put up a nearly identical performance, pitching seven innings, allowing four hits and shutting out the Giants (42-39) on 104 pitches — 67 for strikes.

So, like Tuesday’s game, it was another one down to the wire, this one decided in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off home run off the bat of Brandon Crawford (9), to give the Giants the 1-0 victory over the division rival Rockies (38-42).

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

Before the bullpen took over, and before the dramatic ninth inning, Bumgarner (ND, 1-2, 2.51 ERA) pitched the first half of the ballgame so dominantly that it took 4-2/3 innings before anyone on the Rockies squad had the pleasure of asking first baseman Brandon Belt how his family was. It was with two outs in the fifth that Carlos González spoiled the no-no on the vine with a barely-fair broken-bat dribbler down the third base line good for two bags. The hit had an exit velocity of just 70-mph, but that was enough.

The inning turned into trouble for Bumgarner as he proceeded to walk Chris Iannetta and Noel Cuevas to load the bases. But that brought up Freeland, who is 3-for-30 on the season, and Bumgarner notched his sixth strikeout to get out of the jam.

San Francisco threatened in the fourth and sixth innings, getting runners on first and third with two outs in each inning, but Freeland coaxed the third out both times before the Giants could cash in.

Crawford said he was disappointed that the team couldn’t get on the board sooner for Bumgarner, noting that the starter’s slider and curveball have been much improved in his last two performances:

“It would’ve been nice to give him a win, he pitched well enough that he should’ve gotten one. … He looked like vintage ‘Bum’ out there.”

Skipper Bruce Bochy also commented on the sense that Bumgarner has returned to form:

“His ball-strike ratio was outstanding and he had every pitch going. His last two games he’s been on a real nice roll, really the last three games, and you know he’s throwing the ball like ‘Bum’ does. He’s getting back into pitching shape.”

Will Smith took over for Bumgarner in the eighth and breezed through 1-1/3 innings before Bochy opted to match Reyes Moronta (W, 4-1, 2.02 ERA) against San Francisco’s least-favorite Rockie, Nolan Arenado.

Arenado is the reigning NL Player of the Week last week, after batting .379 with two doubles, five homers and 13 RBI. But he proved to be no problem for the Giants for the second game in a row as Moronta induced a harmless fly ball to left field, good for Arenado’s fourth out of the game and making him 0-for-7 on the series.

The leak-proof bullpen performance set the stage for the exciting finish á la Crawford on the dinger to Levi’s Landing. It was Crawford’s third career walkoff home run, his second off the Rockies, and the team’s sixth walkoff win on the season.

Of his star shortstop’s game-winning knock, Bochy said:

“He’s always been such a great clutch hitter. Even when the numbers weren’t way up there it just seemed like he always came through with the big hit for us, which e did tonight. It’s been fun to watch his work as a hitter since he came up years ago and he’s just gotten better and better.”

With game No. 81 coming to a close in an exciting win, the Giants are happy, relatively speaking, with where they are when they consider the tribulations they’ve had to overcome. They are three games above .500 for just the third time this season, they’ve won eight of their last ten games and they are in third place, 4-1/2 games back of Arizona.

Of their situation, Bumgarner said:

“We cant worry about what the other teams in front of us or behind us are doing, we gotta keep coming out ready to win that day, just take it one day at a time. If we keep playing like we are, I think we’ll be ok.”

He added:

 “I think we’ll always want more but the spot we’re in right now is not a bad place to be.”

Up Next

The Giants will look to expand their winning streak to five as they go for the series sweep over the Rockies Thursday with Chris Stratton (8-5, 4.24 ERA) facing Rockies right-hander Jon Gray (7-7, 5.52 ERA). Gray is 0-2 against the Giants this season, and both of his starts against San Francisco have been his shortest of the year, lasting 3-2/3 and 3-1/3 respectively. Stratton, meanwhile is 1-0 again the Rockies. After the April 25 birth of his daughter, Stratton seemed to lose the groove he’d been in to start the season in which he posted a 4-1 record with a 2.32 ERA. After his daughter was born in the four starts before Colorado he was 2-2 with a 9.53 ERA and a .353 batting average against. But he said he found his curveball at Coors Field of all places, and since his Colorado epiphany Stratton is 4-2 with a 3.23 ERA.

Notes

Wednesday was Bumgarner’s second 7-plus scoreless inning start in a row, giving him 16 consecutive innings of shutout ball. … Austin Slater will see starts in center field in the near future as Bochy looks for ways to provide regular starts for the 25-year-old rookie, who was tearing it up with Triple-A Sacramento (.344/.417/.564) before being called up to the big leagues June 23. As Bochy struggles to divvy up starts in left field between Hunter Pence and Slater — previously Pence and Mac Williamson — he said eventually roles will settle:

“It’s nice to have “Slate”[Slater] to come off the bench and he’s gonna get his starts up here. We have a lot of baseball left. We’re trying to get this worked out [so] we’ll get to a point where one guy’s gonna get most of the time, but right now we’re gonna kind of match it up.”


Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @InsideThePark3r on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.

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