Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

Bumgarner slams Giants to win over Colorado

04/12/2014 12:15 AM

04/12/2014 10:30 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he feels his offense is deep enough this season that he can afford to rest hot hitters like Angel Pagan and Buster Posey on a given night and still run a competitive lineup out on the field. Still, Friday night probably wasn’t what he had in mind.

Madison Bumgarner improved to 2-0 on a night when he wasn’t particularly sharp by driving in five of the Giants’ six runs himself in a 6-5 win, four of them on his first big-league grand slam in the fourth inning. He’d driven in the other the previous inning on a sacrifice fly that missed being a homer by mere feet.

Bumgarner became the first Giants pitcher to hit a grand slam since Shawn Estes on May 24, 2000, against the Montreal Expos. That’s quite a feather in the cap for a pitcher who prides himself on being a decent hitter and enjoys putting on power displays in batting practice. Bumgarner had two previous home runs in his career, both in 2012, but never had an offensive night quite like this.

"I mean, I’m always trying to just swing hard in case I run into something," Bumgarner said. "Fortunately for me and us, I happened to run into a couple today."

Especially fortunate because the Rockies had jumped on Bumgarner early, taking a 3-0 lead in the third. Bumgarner allowed five hitters to reach on three singles and two walks his first time through the order, and hung a curveball to Carlos Gonzalez in the third that Gonzalez crushed into McCovey Cove for a two-run home run.

Brandon Crawford tripled leading off the bottom of the inning, and Bumgarner turned on a fastball from Jorge De La Rosa that carried Gonzalez to the wall but died there for the sacrifice fly. Bochy said he thought that ball might have had a chance to go out.

"He’s so strong," Bochy said. "He just missed it a little bit."

He did no such thing an inning later. Aside from the hiccup to Crawford, De La Rosa had mostly cruised through the first three innings and was an out away from getting out of the fourth despite putting the first two runners on. But after getting two strikes on Brandon Hicks, he bounced a curveball badly that hit Hicks in the foot and seemed to lose his grip. De La Rosa walked Crawford on four pitches to force in a run, then threw a first-pitch, 94 mph fastball to Bumgarner that was right down the middle.

Bumgarner dropped his bat immediately after his follow-through and put his head down as he headed for first base.

"It felt pretty good," he said.

Last season, Bumgarner led all Giants pitchers in RBI -- with four. According to Giants PR, his five RBIs matched the most in a game by a Giants pitcher since 1914, with four others having accomplished the feat (most recently Estes in that game against the Expos). He’s also only the seventh Giants pitcher ever to hit a grand slam in a game.

This spring, Giants pitchers reportedly put more of an emphasis on contributing with the bat. As of tonight, Bumgarner has more RBIs than Hunter Pence or Pablo Sandoval. That drew a chuckle from the big left-hander.

"I hadn’t really thought about it," he said. "I’m sure it won’t last long."

It might give him some leverage with Tim Hudson, though, who joked this spring that Bumgarner is a "5 o’clock hitter" -- showy when it’s time for batting practice.

"Yeah, I think they’ll leave me alone for a couple weeks now," Bumgarner said. "But definitely more of a 5 o’clock hitter than 7."

Then again, it was a timely performance. Bumgarner had gone his past 21 starts allowing three earned runs or fewer. Had he done so Friday, he would have tied Fred Anderson as the only Giants starting pitcher since 1914 to have 22 such consecutive starts. He missed tying the mark when Jordan Pacheco doubled and scored on Charlie Culberson’s bloop single in the sixth.

A night after the Giants used every reliever in their bullpen in a 10-inning loss, though, Bumgarner finished the sixth despite needing 112 pitches to do so, striking out Brandon Barnes swinging on his final delivery of the night.

"I think he just wasn’t quite hitting his spots as he normally does," Bochy said. "He just got some balls up. And you give them credit for doing some pretty good hitting.

"He wasn’t quite as sharp, but he found a way to win that game and he did it with the bat tonight."

Bumgarner was due up fourth in the bottom of the sixth and his spot came up with a man on third and two outs. By that time Bumgarner was done for the night and leaning against the dugout railing in a warm-up jacket but Bochy said the lefty did come up to him to say he was available to hit -- jokingly.

"End the day on a good note, I guess," Bumgarner said.

* In that vein, Sergio Romo came on for his first save opportunity in more than a week and converted it by striking out the side looking in the ninth. After pitching an inning on Thursday night while dealing with stomach cramps, Romo said he "felt fine" tonight.

Romo got Justin Morneau looking on a fastball low and away for the first out and pinch hitter Troy Tulowitzki on a slider low and away for the third. Neither hitter liked the call much and both gave home plate umpire Dan Iassogna an earful leaving the box.

"Strikes are strikes," Romo said. "I just throw the pitches. Thought I made some quality pitches and obviously the umpire thought so, too."

Prior to pitching Thursday, Romo hadn’t gotten into a game since April 2. He said there was nothing significant, though, about pitching back-to-back nights after the extended layoff.

"It’s just kind of how the season plays out," Romo said. "You can’t really control when you throw, you just kind of let the game dictate it. Just got to be ready every day."

* It’s a footnote now, but the Giants nearly let this one get away in eerily similar fashion to Thursday night, right down a throwing error by Pablo Sandoval on a charging play in the eighth inning.

Nolan Arenado led off the eighth against Santiago Casilla bunting for a hit, and Sandoval, who had converted two charging plays the inning before, barehanded the ball and threw wildly to first. Arenado moved up a base, then scored on Charlie Blackmon’s single.

Center fielder Juan Perez committed a gaffe of his own by fielding the hit and airmailing his cutoff man on a throw home, allowing Blackmon to take second with no outs. Casilla, though, made a nice play on a high comebacker by Jordan Pacheco, throwing to second to catch Blackmon too far off the base. And Perez then atoned for his mental error when D.J. LeMahieu flew out in a full count and Perez threw out Pacheco trying to retreat to first base.

Asked about Sandoval, who singled Friday but is batting .143, Bochy said it’s possible he’s pressing both at the plate and in the field.

"I know he’s had a lot going on, and they’re all human," Boch said. "You don’t get off to a great start, you probably start trying a little too hard.

"The first two, three weeks are critical weeks for the team, but also for the players. They need to get their confidence going, get a few hits. When that happens I think you’ll see these guys loosen up a little bit."

* In non-Bumgarner offensive news, Michael Morse singled in the eighth inning to run his hitting streak to nine games. Bumped down to the No. 6 spot against the left-handed De La Rosa, Brandon Belt finally had a rough game, going 1-for-4 with a double but striking out three times.

* The series resumes Saturday with a 1:05 p.m. start. It’s Matt Cain (0-1, 5.73) against Rockies left-hander Brett Anderson (0-2, 4.50).

About This Blog

Matt 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 mkawahara@sacbee.com. Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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