By Shawn Whelchel
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.-It may have only been September, but starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner looked to be in mid-October form on Saturday night as he flirted with perfection through 7.2 innings during the Giants 8-0 win at AT&T Park.
After retiring the first 23 batters of the game in order, Bumgarner’s bid for perfection came to a disappointing ending after outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. hit a 2-1 pitch up the middle of the infield for a single.
The single may have thwarted Bumgarner’s shot at the history books, but the hard-throwing lefty came back out to an ecstatic crowd to down the Padres in order in the bottom of the ninth to cap off his complete game shutout, earning his 18th win of the season.
Bumgarner looked dominant throughout the night, mixing in his entire arsenal of sharp 0ff-speed balls while painting this strike zone with his fastball command.
The southpaw was hardly shook until the night-changing single by Upton Jr., with just two deep fly balls in the fifth inning and a sharp liner that was gloved by a perfectly placed Kelby Tomlinson at second base in the seventh threatening his night.
While the raucous crowd at AT&T Park may have been disappointed by the night’s outcome, the ever stoic Bumgarner balked at the thought of being upset over the missed opportunity.
“I don’t mean to say it like I don’t care, but I’m not here for perfect games, or no-hitters, or any of that,” said Bumgarner. “That’s definitely special, no doubt about it, but my main concern is winning games…I’m just as happy with what we got.”
However, his teammates, along with manager Bruce Bochy, were more candid in their disappointment in not being able to watch Bumgarner sling his way to the history books.
“I think we all felt it. Once you get in the fifth inning area, the way he was throwing the ball, he was on tonight with all his pitches,” said Bochy. “What an incredible performance. We’re all a little disappointed, yet you witness just a beautiful game he threw tonight.”
So where does an outing like Saturday night’s rank amongst Bumgarner’s many impressive starts after the 26-year old slinger has seemingly made a career of pitching in big-game scenarios?
“Its right up there,” Said Bochy, ” This one was right there with so many great games he’s thrown. He just had a great look about him from the get-go.”
Opposing starter Ian Kennedy looked to match Bumgarner’s performance during his first three trips to the mound, before being roughed up his second time through the lineup.
The Giants broke open Saturday’s pitching duel with a two-out rally that plated four across the bottom of the fourth inning.Kennedy continued to cruise through the first two batters of the bottom frame, before a pair of consecutive walks to Buster Posey and Brandon Belt gave the Giants their first runner in scoring position of the ballgame.
Marlon Byrd would cash in on the scoring opportunity by knocking a two-out double off the glove of the sprinting Justin Upton near the left field warning track to clear the bases for a 2-0 lead. The Giants would tack on a pair of additional runs as the speedy Kelby Tomlinson legged out a triple after splitting the left-center gap with a line drive, followed by an Ehire Adrianza bloop single to left field to cap off the scoring outburst.
Kennedy’s night would not get any easier during his next trip to the mound, as Angel Pagan opened up the bottom of the fifth with his second home run of the season, launching one over the arcade in left field to give the Giants a 5-0 lead.
Left fielder Alejandro De Aza would follow up Pagan’s solo blast with a drive of his own deep into triples-alley, just past the sprinting reach of RF Matt Kemp before landing safely at third with a triple. De Aza would be plated two batters later after Belt reached second base on a throwing error by 2B Cory Spangenberg, who launched the ball into the Padres dugout following a double-play attempt.
The error on Spangenberg would quickly haunt the Padres, as Byrd would net his third RBI of the night with a rocket up the middle for an RBI single, giving the Giants a 7-0 lead heading into the sixth inning. Byrd’s single would also chase Kennedy from the game, ending his night after 4.2 innings pitched while surrendering seven earned runs on seven hits.
Belt would add on an additional run to support Bumgarner in the bottom of the seventh by launching a solo shot over the sixth archway in left field to make it an 8-0 game.
The outburst of offense was a side story to Bumgarner’s impressive effort however, as the crowd was keyed in on the dominant southpaw’s efforts throughout the night.
The Giants will look to sweep the series against San Diego tomorrow as Mike Leake takes on the Padre’s Odrisamer Despaigne in a 1:05 p.m start tomorrow at AT&T Park.
The Giants have scored five or more runs in nine of their last 11 home games. San Francisco has also won 18 of their last 23 games at AT&T Park.
Tonight’s complete game was Bumgarner’s 10th of his career and fifth shutout.
Bumgarner’s night was his closest bid to perfection in his career at 7.2 innings. His previous high was 7.0 perfect innings against Colorado on August 26, 2014.