Pence homer, bullpen help wild Bumgarner in Giants' win
04/09/2013 12:00 AM
04/09/2013 8:41 AM
SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants, who last season became the fourth team to win a World Series after hitting the fewest home runs in baseball during the season, have been optimistic this spring they'll show a bit more power this year.
A major reason is the expectation of a full season of Hunter Pence and healthy year from Pablo Sandoval in the middle of the lineup.
The Giants have five home runs in their first seven games, and Pence and Sandoval account for all of them. Pence's third of the season was the difference Monday as the Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 4-2 on a night when Madison Bumgarner battled wildness but improved to 2-0 with help from the bullpen.
Pence hit just two home runs at AT&T Park last year in 36 games, including the playoffs, after joining the Giants via a midseason trade. He's already there after four home games following his three-run shot in the first off Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa.
After Marco Scutaro and Sandoval singled with one out, De La Rosa struck out Buster Posey swinging. Pence then crushed De La Rosa's first pitch halfway up the bleachers in left field to give the Giants a 3-0 lead.
"He's got some of the best power I've ever seen," Posey said. "I hit with him in batting practice every day, and I try to make sure to hit before him so I don't have to follow his moon shots."
Pence and Sandoval also own 10 of the Giants' 18 RBIs, with five apiece.
Posey, who collected 103 of them during his MVP season last year, got his first of the season in the eighth, driving in Angel Pagan with a two-out single off Chris Volstad. Posey was 4 for 23 before the at-bat.
That gave some wiggle room to Sergio Romo, who allowed a leadoff double to Josh Rutledge in the ninth – the first out of 10 batters to reach base against Romo this season – before striking out Chris Nelson, Todd Helton and Wilin Rosario for his fourth save in as many chances.
Bumgarner tied his career high with five walks – one intentional – but dodged trouble for most of his 5 2/3 innings. He put Yorvit Torrealba on to load the bases in the second inning with two outs, then struck out De La Rosa. An inning later, Bumgarner issued a leadoff walk to Eric Young Jr. but picked him off first base.
The pickoff loomed large when, two batters later, Carlos Gonzalez hit a Bumgarner curveball into McCovey Cove on a bounce. Bumgarner cited the pitch as one of a few "mental lapses" on the night.
"Physically, everything felt fine," he said. "I didn't feel like I had the same trust in myself as I did the last time out. You're not going to feel that way every time, and you've got to know that going in."
As sharp as Bumgarner was in his first start against the Dodgers, when he didn't have a three-ball count until the sixth inning, he labored Monday, throwing first-pitch strikes to just 11 of 25 hitters.
Bumgarner threw 104 pitches and left after Chris Nelson's two-out RBI single in the sixth made it a one-run game.
"It's hard to be as sharp as he was his first game," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's how good he was. But he competed well. He walked some guys but kept his poise."
Bochy turned to Santiago Casilla, who struck out Torrealba to end the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh.
Jeremy Affeldt retired the Rockies in order in the eighth.
Scutaro, who is 3 for 27 this season, said before the game he is working through some issues with his swing that cropped up after a bout of back soreness in spring. He said he's "jumping" at pitches rather than letting them get deep in the zone and trusting his hands and hips to react.
Bochy, though, said Scutaro wants to be in the lineup to work through the issues and that as a veteran, Scutaro has earned that right. Bochy said he does plan to give Scutaro a day off either tonight or Wednesday, with the Giants playing a day game after a night game.
About This BlogMatt Kawahara has covered baseball for The Sacramento Bee for three years. Kawahara, a McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley graduate, joined The Bee in 2010. Before joining Sports, he was a general assignment news reporter. Reach Kawahara at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @matthewkawahara.
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