Here’s one stat the San Francisco Giants fans aren’t talking about right now.
The Giants are 0 for their last 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position over their last five games.
In Saturday’s game in Atlanta, the Giants didn’t get a chance to fail with a runner in scoring position because they never put a runner into scoring position.
Yet the Giants are on a five-game winning streak thanks to home runs and outstanding pitching.
Madison Bumgarner joined the parade of quality starts by limiting the Braves to one unearned run over six innings in a 4-1 win on Saturday.
The win completed the Giants’ first sweep in Atlanta in 1988. That was a really, really, long time ago. How long ago?
It was so long ago that 1988 was the last time the Dodgers won a World Series.
Yeah, like we said, a looooooooooooooooong time ago.
It was good to see Bumgarner regain his form as the ace of the staff. Prior to Sunday’s start, Bumgarner had allowed as many earned runs (four) in his last start (5 IP) as Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Linecum, Tim Hudson, Yusmeiro Petit and Vogelsong had allowed combined in the 33.2 innings over the Giants’ previous five starts.
Bumgarner allowed three hits and one walk, while striking out nine over his six innings of work. He threw 95 pitches and lowered his season ERA to 3.18.
From there, the bullpen continued its streak of scoreless relief. The Giants’ pen has not allowed a run since the ninth inning of Monday’s loss to the Padres.
Since then, they’ve pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing only three hits over that stretch.
And the Giants continue to hit the long ball. They added two more on Sunday, both off the bat of Brandon Crawford. He had a solo home run in the fourth, then broke the Giants’ long stretch of hitting just solo homers in the eighth with a two-run shot.
The Giants’ other run came on a run-scoring groundout by Buster Posey in the first inning, meaning that Angel Pagan remains the only Giant to have a run-scoring hit on the road that was not a home run since April 5. Pagan has two such hits.
It’s an odd combination, especially for the Giants — home runs, solid starting pitching and outstanding relief pitching. But it’s produced the first five-game winning streak of the 2014 season, and the longest winning streak since winning six in a row from April 29-May 5, 2013.
Now, it’s a happy flight to Pittsburgh as the Giants have opened this tough 10-game road trip against three playoff teams from 2013 at 3-0.
- WP: Madison Bumgarner (2-0)
- HR: Madison Bumgarner (1)
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was looking for a good opportunity to give Buster Posey and Angel Pagan a rest.
With Madison Bumgarner on the mound, Bochy figured the Giants could still win without their two hottest hitters.
And that’s how it worked out, although not in the manner that Bochy was probably thinking.
Bumgarner drove in five runs, including four on a fourth-inning grand slam as the Giants beat the Rockies in the first Orange Friday of the season.
When Bumgarner took Jorge De La Rosa deep to right for his third career home run, Bumgarner became the second San Francisco Giants pitcher to hit a grand slam, joining Shawn Estes who did it May 24, 2000 against the Montreal Expos.
In winning, the Giants erased an early 3-0 deficit. The Rockies dinked and dunked Bumgarner, except for the rocket Carlos Gonzalez hit into the bay in the top of the third for a two-run home run.
Brandon Crawford opened the bottom of the third with a triple and scored when Bumgarner hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field.
In the bottom of the fourth, things got odd.
Pablo Sandoval opened the inning with a single, followed by a Michael Morse walk. Hector Sanchez flied out, and Brandon Belt struck out.
The Giants looked like they caught a bad break when Brandon Hicks was hit on the foot with a pitch that appeared destined to the backstop, which would have allowed Sandoval to score from third. Instead, the bases were loaded.
But the Giants got that run when Brandon Crawford walked.
Then came Bumgarner, who jumped on a De La Rosa fast ball and drove it deep into the left-field bleachers for a grand slam and a 6-3 lead.
The Giants wasted scoring chances later in the game, but Sergio Romo struck out the side in the ninth to seal the win.
In addition to giving Pagan and Posey a rest, Bochy was also looking to get some of his bench players some at-bats to get them out of their early season funk.
Juan Perez started in center and went 0 for 4. Hector Sanchez started at catcher and went 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch. Add in Ehire Adrianza’s out in a pinch-hit spot (oddly pinch-hitting for Bumgarner), and the Giants usual bench players of Perez, Sanchez, Adrianza, Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias are hitting a combined 5 for 59 (.085).
Perez did have a nice throw to double off Jordan Pacheco at first to end the eighth.
SANDOVAL TO BENCH LATE
As he did Thursday night, Pablo Sandoval threw the ball away on a play when he was better off to just hold the ball.
Nolan Arenado bunted to third with Sandoval playing back. Sandoval charged the ball, and did not have a chance to get Arenado. But he threw anyway, and the throw went into the stands.
That allowed Arenado to take second, which allowed him to score on Charlie Blackmon’s bloop single.
In the top of the ninth, Sandoval was sent to the bench in favor of Joaquin Arias.
That’s not supposed to happen for a player who wants a $90 million contract. Especially one hitting .143.
MORE TWO-OUT MAGIC
Five of the six runs the Giants scored on Friday came with two outs. That makes 41 of 61 runs this season coming with two outs.
Matt Cain, who has enjoyed success against the Rockies, takes the mound against the former A’s pitcher Brett Anderson. Anderson is 0-2 this season, but he’s had two quality starts (both exactly 6 IP with 3 ERs for a 4.50 ERA). But that’s two more quality starts than what Cain has enjoyed this season. Game time is 1:05 p.m. and the game will be aired on MLB Network.
So you’d think since we were advocating for Ryan Vogelsong to be the opening day starter that we’d be upset with Bruce Bochy’s announced rotation.
Bochy said the rotation will go like this:
- RHP Matt Cain
- LHP Madison Bumgarner
- RHP Tim Lincecum
- LHP Barry Zito
- RHP Ryan Vogelsong
But we don’t have any problem with this rotation, and here are six good reasons why we like this rotation.
NO. 1: Barry Zito earned the right to open the home opener when the Giants will hoist their 2012 World Series flag. It was Zito who saved the season in Game 5 of the NLCS with his gem in the fourth of the six elimination games the Giants faced last fall.
NO. 2: It sets up the right-left-right-left-right format in the rotation.
NO. 3: Putting Lincecum at the No. 3 slot instead of Vogelsong keeps Timmy’s fragile psyche in place. Vogey can handle being the No. 5 better than Lincecum, who has been the No. 1 guy the past four seasons.
NO. 4: The Giants have won the past 14 games started by Zito, and the Giants want to win their home opener.
NO. 5: Last weekend when Cain, Bumgarner and Lincecum started the season opening series in Arizona — not necessarily in that order — and the Giants lost all three games, it was Zito who pitched a shutout in his season debut in Colorado. Pitching in San Francisco will be much easier.
NO. 6: It’s sets up the rotation against the Cardinals exactly as it aligned in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the NLCS: Zito, Vogelsong, Cain.
Pablo Sandoval was the MVP of the 2012 World Series. And that was an easy call.
The Panda hit .500 (8 for 16) with three home runs, four RBI, a double and only two strikeouts. And, of course, he had the three-homer game.
But there were a lot of MVPs in the World Series for the Giants. Here are others:
RHP Tim Lincecum 4.2 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, one walk, eight strikeouts
RHP Sergio Romo 3 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, five strikeouts, three saves
LHP Madison Bumgarner 7 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts, 1 win.
RHP Ryan Vogelsong, 5.2 IP, 5 hits, 0 run, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 win
OF Gregor Blanco, 4-15 (.267), 3B, RBI, three great catches, great relay throw to Marco Scutaro to get Prince Fielder at the plate
C Buster Posey, 4-15 (.267), HR, 3 RBI, caught outstanding series, two shutouts.
LHP Barry Zito, 5.2 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 1 win, 1-2, RBI
LHP Jeremy Affeldt, 2 IP, 0 hit, 0 run, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
SS Brandon Crawford, 3-12 (.250), RBI, stolen base, outstanding defensive shortstop
Stop me if this sounds familiar to you.
The Giants open the World Series by smacking around the American League’s best pitcher who entered the series with three standout postseason performances and a playoff ERA under 1.00.
They follow that up by shutting out an American League lineup that includes the potential league MVP in Game 2.
And Madison Bumgarner throws up nothing but zeros in his first start of the series.
No, Giants fans, this is NOT the 2010 World Series, but it sure feels like it.
Even the Giants acknowledged as much.
“It feels the same, but we know it’s not going to be the same until we win a World Series,” left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. “They’re not going to roll over.”
And don’t tell Bumgarner this is not the 2010 postseason, because after two sub-par playoff starts, MadBum recaptured his magic on the mound.
Bumgarner silenced the Tigers’ bats with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out eight.
MadBum’s performance coupled with another night of solid defense and just a little bit of luck was enough to propel the Giants to a 2-0 victory in Game 2 of the World Series, and a 2-0 series lead.
About the only thing Bumgarner didn’t do was extend the team’s streak of having a pitcher drive in a run in a fifth consecutive postseason game.
So it leads to the question: What was the difference between this game and Bumgarner’s two previous starts in which he posted an ERA of 11.25?
“I went into the seventh inning instead of getting took out in the third,” Bumgarner said.
Nah, c’mon Madison, get serious.
“The only difference was being able to make pitches,” Bumgarner said. “I hadn’t been able to do that this postseason. And tonight …. Buster caught a great game, defense did great.”
It’s got to be more than that.
“I thought the first inning would be a critical inning for him, for his confidence, also just to see where he was at,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Really, I mean, what a job he did. He’s worked on some things, and Rags — Dave Righetti, our pitching coach — did a great job getting him back on track. He had great poise out there with a great delivery, and he stayed right on for seven innings.”
So Righetti is some kind of miracle worker then?
Bumgarner made three bullpen sessions on Righetti’s supervision between Game 1 of the NLCS — a 6-4 loss to the Cardinals when MadBum gave up all six runs in less the four innings of work — and Thursday’s Game 2 of the World Series.
They also studied video, finding that MadBum had bad mechanics that was leading to unnecessary stress and fatigue on his arm. After the third session, the Giants decided Bumgarner was ready to return to the rotation. And was he ever.
Game 3 starter Ryan Vogelsong said: “It’s a testament to him. It’s not easy to fix yourself like that and go out there and perform so well. He wasn’t just OK. He was really good.”
Yes, he was.
When this series started, most Giants fans were hoping the Giants could split the first games with the Tigers, given that Barry Zito and Bumgarner were set to start. Then the plan was to get the series back to San Francisco for Games 6 and 7, and hope the Giants’ run of postseason magic could continue.
Now they head to Detroit with a 2-0 series lead and their two best pitchers this postseason — Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain — taking the mound there.
And thoughts now turn to returning to San Francisco simply to have another parade.
But if anyone knows not to get ahead of themselves, it’s these Giants.
“You can’t count Detroit out,” Sergio Romo said. “Look at what we were able to do to get here.”
Game 1: Cardinals 6, Giants 4
Game 2: Cardinals (Carpenter) at Giants (Vogelsong), 5:07 p.m. Monday
Game 3: Giants (Cain) at Cardinals (Lohse), 1:07 p.m. Wednesday
Game 4: Giants (TBA) at Cardinals (TBA), 5:07 p.m. Thursday
x-Game 5: Giants (TBA) at Cardinals (TBA), 5:07 p.m. Friday
x-Game 6: Cardinals at Giants, 1:07 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21
x-Game 7: Cardinals at Giants, 5:07 p.m., Monday, Oct. 22
Normally, it’s the visiting team that comes into the best-of-seven series looking to at least split the first two games.
But if you had asked any Giants fan heading into the 2012 NLCS, they would have gladly taken a split.
Now, the Giants almost need that split.
Things started badly for the Giants Sunday, got a little better, but ended with a 6-4 loss to the Cardinals in the Giants’ third consecutive home postseason loss at AT&T Park.
And the overriding question after the loss was: What is wrong with Madison Bumgarner.
A pitcher who was so key during the Giants’ 2010 World Series run has been in a major funk this postseason.
It continued Sunday, as MadBum was tagged for six runs on eight hits, one walk in 3 2/3 innings.
Things started off well for Bumgarner as he set the Cardinals down in order in the first on two groundouts and a line out to left.
“He came out with good stuff, but it dropped a little bit,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
But in the second, Bumgarner got stung again by the long ball, something the Giants’ had hoped to avoid by having Bumgarner start at home.
David Freese’s two-run shot to left gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth it got worse. Daniel Descalso raked a double down the line in right. Pete Kozma followed with a double down the left field line and it was 3-0 Cardinals. After striking out pitcher Lance Lynn, Jon Jay singled home Kozma. Then Carlos Beltran’s two-run homer to left ended Bumgarner’s night.
“I think (he’s) just struggling with command,” catcher Buster Posey said. “Breaking balls not getting buried in. It doesn’t have quite the same finish on it. I’d say that’s the main thing.”
More troubling was the radar gun on Bumgarner, which Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News reported at being around 88-89 mph in the fourth inning, lower than the 91-93 mph we are used to seeing from Bumgarner.
“That’s the way it’s been the past two starts,” Bumgarner said. “Not a whole lot of life on the ball. At the same time, you’ve still got to find a way to make pitches.”
Well, it’s been more than the last two starts in the postseason. It actually dates back to August.
Bumgarner had a string of eight consecutive quality starts from July 13-Aug. 20, culminating with eight shutout innings (four hits, 10 Ks) at Los Angeles.
Since then, he has only had one quality start — Sept. 17 at home against the Rockies, when he gave up one run on four hits in six innings. However, in that game, he walked a season-high five batters. In his other regular-season starts, he’s given up 3 to 5 runs in between 4.0-6.1 innings per start.
And you’ll recall the Giants didn’t exactly finish the season against powerhouse lineups: Cubs, Rockies twice, Padres twice.
In the postseason, he gave four runs on seven hits in four innings vs. the Reds. And then Sunday’s start.
In his last four starts, he’s given up six home runs — in pitcher friendly ballparks (3 starts at AT&T, one in Petco).
So what does this mean for Game 5?
“We’ll talk about it tonight, tomorrow, and as we get to Game 5 what we will do,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “But, he’s one of our guys. He’s had a great year, and we’ve seen what this kid has done for us during the season and in the postseason. But, it’s something that we’ll discuss.”
Depending on what happens Monday with Vogelsong, it looks as if Barry Zito might get the call.
For what it’s worth, Zito gave up two runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings in his only start in St. Louis this season on Aug. 7.
In baseball, it’s often said not to read too much into one win. It’s a 162-game season. The Giants still have eight more games against the Dodgers. And it’s only August 20.
All that is true. And I heard someone say that the Giants fans may not think Monday’s win was that big win two days from now.
But MoreSplashHits disagrees. So here are 10 reasons why Monday’s victory over the Dodgers was a big win.
NO. 1: THEY AVOID A SWEEP — The worst thing that could have happened to the Giants is being swept again by the Dodgers and leave L.A. 3.5 games out of first place. Now, at worst, the Giants will leave 1.5 games back. Or they will leave a half-game ahead. Or they will leave 2.5 games up. Monday’s win makes all that possible.
NO. 2: THEY BEAT KERSHAW — Last year, Clayton Kershaw owned the Giants, going 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA in six starts against them. This season, Kershaw has a 1.74 ERA in four starts against the Giants. Very good. But he is also now 1-3 against the Giants. Hard to imagine the Giants have beaten the Dodgers five times this season, and three have come against Kershaw. The Giants beat him 2-1 on May 8, 2-0 on June 26 and 2-1 on Monday. Kershaw’s lone win was a 4-0 win on July 29.
NO. 3: BACK IN FIRST — The victory moved the Giants back into first place, one day after giving the Dodgers back the lead in the NL West.
NO. 4: LINCECUM STARTS TUESDAY — Tim Lincecum has been better since the All-Star break, but the Giants still can’t count on their former ace to deliver a quality start every time out. So coming into his start off a win — instead of back-to-back losses — will allow Lincecum to relax a bit. Plus, he’s facing Joe Blanton, who has given up 14 runs in 15.1 innings since joining the Dodgers.
NO. 5: CAN’T WASTE A GOOD START — After having two starters (Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong) failing to pitch into the fifth innings in their last two games, it was imperative that the Giants get a quality outing from Madison Bumgarner. They got that, as MadBum threw eight shutout innings. And the Giants cannot afford to get solid pitching outings and waste them.
NO. 6: IT WAS ON NATIONAL TV — Scribes across the country have been writing off the Giants in the wake of the Melky Cabrera suspension. It was a perfect time to show that the Giants are here to stay in the NL West, as the game was aired live by ESPN.
NO. 7: THEY BEAT AN NL WEST RIVAL — The Giants came into Monday with an 8-10 record this season against the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. They have a 24-9 record against the other teams they will face the rest of the season. Given that schedule and coupled with the Dodgers’ tough schedule and the Diamondbacks’ 4.5 game deficit, the Giants can win the NL West by simply playing .500 baseball in the remaining 18 games against L.A. and Arizona. Now, they are 1-0 in those final 18.
NO. 8: GIANTS WERE COMING OFF A LOSS — If the Giants are to stay in this race, they must avoid long losing streaks. The best way to do that is to not start ANY losing streaks. Having lost Sunday in San Diego, the Giants made a move toward starting a winning streak on Monday.
NO. 9: THE DODGERS WERE COMING OFF TWO WINS — The Giants also have to do what they can to prevent the Dodgers from going on a long winning streak. The Dodgers finished their recent road trip by winning their last two in Atlanta.
NO. 10: IT’S THE FREAKIN’ DODGERS — Any win over the Dodgers is a big win.