As Giants fans try to come to terms with the idea that Madison Bumgarner is not long for this franchise, he’s certainly not making it easy.
Bumgarner (W, 4-7, 4.21 ERA) tossed his best outing of 2019 in San Francisco’s 4-2 victory over the Rockies (41-38) at Oracle Park Tuesday. Along the way, he struck out a season-high 11 batters, passing Forever Giant Matt Cain for all-time strikeouts in the San Francisco-era — he now sits squarely in third with 1,695, behind Tim Lincecum (1,704) and Juan Marichal (2,281).
Bumgarner said he was honored to find his name in such good company:
“It’s pretty special to me to be on any kind of leaderboard or close to the top on certain things for this organization. It’s been around a long time and a lot of really good players come through here.”
Not only did the big lefty dominate Rockies hitters, limiting them to two runs on three hits, he contributed to an offense that sorely needs all the help it can get. Manager Bruce Bochy was glad to see Bumgarner at his best Tuesday night on both sides of the ball:
“He’s really, really been himself, throwing the ball well, velocity and the other pitches — he really pitched well.”
In the home-half of the third inning, Bumgarner came to the plate behind back-to-back singles from Brandon Crawford and Donovan Solano and grounded to third. Crawford broke from third to the plate and got into a run down. He kept it going long enough to move Bumgarner to second and Solano to third, bringing Brandon Belt, experimentally penciled into the leadoff spot, to the plate. Belt hit a sac fly to deep center to put the Giants ahead 1-0 early.
The skipper said he put Belt in the leadoff spot in a bid to take advantage of his power and his propensity to get onbase, he leads the team with his .359 onbase percentage and is third with his .424 slugging percentage. But Bochy joked that Belt’s first at-bat to open the contest didn’t go quite as planned as the big first baseman saw three pitches and struck out looking. Bochy said:
“It didn’t look too smart the first at-bat. I told him, I said, “Listen, you’re supposed to make me look good if I make a move like this. Three pitches and you sat down.’ He laughed.”
Bochy said Belt will have another go leading off in Wednesday’s matinee.
Bumgarner’s only real blemish came when he left a first-pitch changeup over the plate to Ian Desmond with one out in the fourth. The center fielder didn’t miss, tying it up on a solo shot (11) to left-center.
But the Giants (34-44) were alive and fighting with the bats facing Chi Chi González (L, 0-1, 5.40 ERA) in his first big league outing since 2017, and they quickly cancelled out Bumgarner’s team-leading 17th home run allowed this year.
San Francisco’s newest phenomenon Alex ‘Dick’ Dickerson led off fourth inning with a single to right.
Dickerson has been winning hearts and minds at a rapid pace since making his debut with the Giants June 21 after the team acquired him from the Padres June 10 for minor-league reliever Franklin Van Gurp. Including Tuesday’s performance, Dickerson has now accrued three walks, three singles, three doubles, a triple and a homer in just five games.
His performance led to chants of “DICK! DICK! DICK!” in the Giants dugout back in Arizona during his second night in a San Francisco uniform, and hometown fans are just now getting to enjoy the energy the 29-year-old journeyman brings.
Bochy, for one, is onboard. Ahead of Monday’s homestand-opener he said he hoped Dickerson would not change his approach from the way he was hitting on the road, and judging by results in two home-games so far–3-for-6 with a walk–he hasn’t.
“I’ve seen a guy that has a quiet approach up there. He sees the ball well and he just gives you good at-bats.”
Two batters later with Crawford at the plate, Dickerson took second when Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds couldn’t handle a pickoff throw. Crawford then drew a walk to bring Solano up, who smacked a line drive into center field to give the Giants back the lead and put the wood in Bumgarner’s hands. MadBum drew six pitches before lining a single to left to make it 3-1.
Bochy praised the contributions of the seven, eight and nine guys Tuesday, especially Solano:
“The back end of the order did a great job. Craw had a nice game, of course Bum helped himself with the basehit, and Donovan– he’s really doing a nice job since he’s been up here. He’s a nice player, good solid player does all the little things well, he plays both sides of the ball very nicely, so very nice game by him.”
Colorado came within a run in the sixth when Rockies leadoff man Charlie Blackmon hit a ball out to centerfield that Kevin Pillar misjudged, good for a double. Bumgarner struck Desmond out and coaxed an infield pop out from Giants nemesis Nolan Arenado.
But then David Dahl hit a fly out to left that Dickerson never saw. Pillar was unable to make up ground quickly enough to pick his fellow outfielder up, and Dahl took the RBI double to make it 3-2.
Bochy attributed the missed plays in the outfield to the lighting. He said:
“Really it can happen to anybody, that’s a tough sky. I think both teams were having a tough time seeing the ball. When it gets in that twilight and when it gets up there you’ll see some outfielders struggling trying to keep track of it.”
Will Smith (S, 21, 1-0, 1.95 ERA) locked down his 21st consecutive save to start the season as he put the cherry on top for Bumgarner’s gem, striking out two of three in a nod to the ace’s stunning performance, in which he, struck out Rockies by the pair in five of six of his frames.
The Giants and Jeff Samardzija (4-6, 4.23 ERA) will face German Márquez (7-3, 4.32 ERA) in Wednesday’s series finale against the Rockies at 12:45 p.m. at Oracle Park. The last time San Francisco faced Márquez he no-hit them threw 7-1/3 innings before Evan Longoria finally slashed a single to left in the Giants 4-0 defeat.
Bumgarner hit a season-high with his 11 strikeouts, topping his previous season-high of nine from Opening Day, March 28 against the Padres. Tuesday marked the first time he hit double-digit strikeouts since April 2, 2017 against Arizona (11). … Tuesday’s victory marks Bumgarner’s 16th over the Rockies, the most he has against any franchise. …Drew Pomeranz also struck 11 Rox out in his outing Monday; the last time Giants had back-to-back double-digit strikeouts from their starters was September 27-29, 2016 when Matt Moore, Samardzija and Johnny Cueto each did it, also against the Rockies.