SAN FRANCISCO – Lately, in talking about his team's early-summer swoon, manager Bruce Bochy has made the Giants sound like an object caught in an unpleasant orbit, needing the jolt of "either a really well-pitched game or somebody coming through with a big hit" to knock them onto a different course.
Saturday, shortly after being named an All-Star for the first time in his young career, Madison Bumgarner gave the Giants the former and variations on the latter in a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Bumgarner held the Dodgers to three hits over seven innings and drove in two runs himself with a bases-loaded walk and sacrifice fly, leading the Giants to just their second win in their last 12 games.
Bumgarner had been told Friday of his All-Star selection by Bochy, the National League manager, who didn't want him dwelling on it the day of his start. Asked which meant more in hindsight – that nod or Saturday's outing – Bumgarner said: "The win, for sure."
"That's a huge honor to get the All-Star game, too," the left-hander said. "But we really needed a win today."
Bumgarner retired the first 14 batters he faced and struck out nine. Both runs against him came on one swing by Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz in the fifth.
While the All-Star nod carries a certain weight, maybe nothing underscores Bumgarner's importance to the Giants over the first half of this season more than this: In their last 21 games, the Giants are 6-15, and four of those wins have come in Bumgarner starts.
The Giants also improved to 7-3 this season when Bumgarner takes the mound following a San Francisco loss.
Whether Saturday's outing can ignite the kind of turnaround Bochy envisioned remains to be seen – the Giants today face nemesis and Dodgers All-Star Clayton Kershaw, who has held the Giants to three runs in three starts against them this season and has a lifetime 0.73 ERA at AT&T Park.
"Hopefully," Bochy said. "They played well, and it started with Bumgarner. Though (Friday) night we had better at-bats, hit some balls hard, but today we found a way to get it done."
That was in spite of a bizarre scene in the first inning, when the Giants appeared to take a 1-0 lead on an RBI double by Buster Posey, only to have the run taken off the board when the umpires ruled the Giants had batted out of order.
Bochy later said his lineup card in the dugout, like the ones he had given to the Dodgers and umpires, had Pablo Sandoval batting third and Posey hitting cleanup. But the hitters were flipped when typed into a new electronic system in the clubhouse, which displays the lineup in the clubhouse and transfers to the scoreboard.
Posey, checking those two sources, went up to hit third. After his double, which scored Gregor Blanco, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly protested, Sandoval was ruled out and Posey was sent up to hit again with Blanco on third base. Posey flew out.
"At that point, you're just hoping it wasn't the game," said Bochy, who shouldered blame for not catching the mix-up during Posey's at-bat. "You want this not to play a part in the game because we had a big hit."
Bumgarner helped make it a non-factor an inning later, when he drew a five-pitch walk to force in the Giants' first run after they had loaded the bases against Stephen Fife without hitting a ball out of the infield.
The Giants added two more runs on an infield single by Blanco, who snapped an 0-for-25 skid with three hits, and a Marco Scutaro sacrifice fly.
It was enough support for Bumgarner, who has now allowed four earned runs in his last four starts against the Dodgers. A potential fifth run was cut down at the plate in the seventh on a sharp defensive play by Sandoval, who snared Juan Uribe's one-hopper and threw home to nab Hanley Ramirez and preserve the two-run lead.
Sandoval made another key play in the eighth, diving to rob Mark Ellis of a hit after Jerry Hairston doubled with one out off reliever Sandy Rosario.
Javier Lopez struck out Carl Crawford to end the inning, and Sergio Romo notched his 20th save with a perfect ninth that included a strikeout of Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig, who also went down swinging three times against Bumgarner for his first career four-strikeout game.