By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–Think back to spring training–before the 70 losses with almost two months remaining. A healthy, capable Giants club was supposed to look like this, especially on a heavy-aired afternoon at AT&T.
Pitch, play defense and get the big outs late. Offense? Scratch together a couple of runs, nothing spectacular. Just steady.
On Wednesday, it worked just like they envisioned, right down to Mad Bum actually winning one for a change.
In the other dugout, Joe Maddon was concerned, but not overly so. His Cubs were 16-8 post All-Star break and prior to Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Giants. But when he expressed what was missing from his team’s effort, it sounded a lot like what suddenly crawled into the Giants’ dugout.
“We haven’t played well. We haven’t played with the same kind of efficiency,” Maddon said.
“Pitching, great. Again, defense we still have to make plays. And overall, offensively we need more consistency out of more people to get this whole thing done.”
Each Giants’ position starter had one hit. The resurgent Hunter Pence had two. “Wawindaji” homered off Pedro Strop in the eighth inning for a nice piece of insurance in a 2-1 game. “Wawindaji” is Pence’s nickname (Hunter in Swahili) that will appear on his Players Weekend uniform in the upcoming series at Washington.
The placement of the way-out nickname on an actual game jersey is also a sure sign that Pence’s play has picked up. The right fielder hit over .300 on the completed home stand, and including the two games in Oakland.
Pablo Sandoval looked nifty ranging to his left. Denard Span and Ryder Jones contributed “small ball” hits in the seventh that allowed the Giants to break the 1-1 tie. And Bumgarner was tough on a lineup that’s been more than capable against ordinary lefties this season (19-9 after Wednesday’s loss).
Coming off that serious biking accident, Bumgarner had a long road, not just to get healthy, but to regain his status among the National League’s best starters. Bochy’s cast a discerning eye in the process. Here’s how he saw Bumgarner’s effort.
“His stuff’s the same. His command, everything is right there. He pitched very well today. He made the one mistake there, but he hasn’t changed a bit,” Bochy said.
The one mistake–a third inning home run surrendered to Albert Almora Jr.–would mark the only time a Cub crossed the plate all afternoon. Bumgarner threw seven innings, allowed four singles and the Almora homer while striking out seven.
Hunter Strickland pitched a scoreless eighth, and Sam Dyson, the reliever rescued from the scrap heap after a rough first half with the Rangers picked up save number eight.
The Giants resume play in Washington on Friday night, the first of a six-game road trip. The team will also visit the Marlins in Miami.