Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

Command goes missing for Bumgarner in Giants’ 6-4 loss

04/29/2014 12:06 AM

04/29/2014 12:07 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Through his first six starts this season, Madison Bumgarner has not pitched into the sixth inning in half of them. That’s not the Bumgarner the Giants have come to know. Last year, he exited before the sixth three times total in 31 starts.

The issue Monday night in the Giants’ 6-4 loss to the Padres was with command, though the Giants didn’t help Bumgarner with two errors in the Padres’ two-run fourth. Padres catcher Rene Rivera, who entered the game with zero RBIs on the season, drove in both runs that inning with a double, then swatted a three-run homer off Bumgarner in the fifth to account for all the Padres’ runs off the lefty.

Bumgarner threw 93 pitches in five innings and allowed seven hits and a season-high four walks. Despite his complete game in the Giants’ 2-1 loss to the Rockies last week, Bumgarner entered Monday’s start with opposing hitters batting .314 against him -- a number that dropped only to .310 with the Padres’ seven hits.

April will end with Bumgarner owning a 2-3 record and 3.74 ERA. The Giants are 15-11 despite having just six wins from their starting rotation -- the third-lowest total in the majors as of Monday evening.

"I think it’s fair to say he’s made a few more mistakes than we’re accustomed to," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He did a good job getting ahead tonight, just had some problems getting the ball where he wanted and left some balls over the plate.

"Whether it’s a hitter or pitcher, they’re going to be a little off at times or they’re going to go through their little skids. We’re pretty spoiled with Madison, the way he’s pitched, especially at home."

The Giants had won the last seven home games against the Padres started by Bumgarner, who came in 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA against San Diego at AT&T Park.

"Something felt a little off (tonight)," Bumgarner said. "Have to go back and see if we can figure out what it was, work on it and get it fixed before the next start. But command obviously wasn’t very good."

Bumgarner allowed a single and two walks in the first but struck out Alexi Amarista with the bases loaded to end the inning and got through the first three unscathed. The fourth, though, started with Brandon Crawford booting Tommy Medica’s ground ball, and after Amarista doubled, Rivera doubled to drive in both runs.

Pablo Sandoval also bobbled a grounder from opposing pitcher Tyson Ross that allowed Ross to reach with one out (Ross was originally called out, but the Padres challenged the play and won). Bumgarner avoided further damage in the inning with two strikeouts, but he finished the fourth having already thrown 74 pitches.

"I feel like today was probably the worst I’ve had command-wise," Bumgarner said. He said in his other rocky outings this year, he was "maybe trying to nibble too much. Today I was trying to get ahead, just wasn’t able to do it."

As Bochy indicated, a handful of lackluster starts from Bumgarner likely get magnified because of the precedent the left-hander has set. Still, the Giants effectively tabbed him the ace of their staff this year, and they’re no doubt counting on more from him, and the rotation as a whole.

* Brandon Belt did some early hitting work before Monday’s game, made contact in two of his at-bats after striking out four times Sunday and drew a walk. But Bochy said while there were times Belt "did quiet things down … there were times he was going too fast up there again.

"It’s a work in progress right now trying to get him on track."

Belt is now hitless in 15 at-bats over his last four games. Pablo Sandoval, meanwhile, also went hitless in four at-bats Monday, all with runners on base, including a pivotal one in the sixth with runners on first and third, one out and the Giants trailing by one. Sandoval struck out swinging against lefty reliever Alex Torres.

"Our corner guys, they’re going to have to get on track for us to have success and put runs on the board" Bochy said. "Both are going through a tough time right now."

Bochy said he’d think overnight on whether to shake up the lineup Tuesday, with the Padres throwing left-hander Eric Stults.

* That sixth inning loomed large. After Sandoval struck out and Torres walked Brandon Crawford to load the bases, Brandon Hicks drove a ball to the warning track in left that Chris Denorfia caught for the third out.

The Giants went 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position, and have now gone 15 games with two or fewer hits in those situations. They’re 19-for-112 (a .170 average) with men in scoring position in those 15 games, and who knows how one more hit Monday night changes things?

Hicks, who hit a walk-off home run Sunday, had homered again in his previous at-bat, driving a slider from Ross over the wall in center on a cold night at AT&T Park.

"Strange night," Bochy said. "We just couldn’t quite get it done."

* Bumgarner said he felt the Giants had a pretty good game plan for pitching to Rivera, but he just wasn’t able to execute it. Rivera, who has played in 133 games in the majors but never had more than seven RBIs in a season, set a record for the most RBIs in a game by a Padres hitter at AT&T Park, and his five were the most by a San Diego player in any game since Sept. 2, 2012, when Chase Headley drove in six.

* One subplot of this series: The Padres and Giants came in with the two lowest bullpen ERAs in the majors, respectively. San Diego’s relievers combined for 3 2/3 scoreless on Monday to lower their mark to 1.94. Javier Lopez allowed a run in the eighth -- giving up his first hit to a left-handed batter this season in the process on Will Venable’s double -- and the Giants’ ERA now stands at 2.13.

* Both teams successfully challenged a safe-out call at first in the game, with the Giants overturning a play in the third on which Xavier Nady was first ruled to have beaten out a grounder to Crawford. In other words, it wasn’t a great night for first base umpire Angel Hernandez.

* It’s Eric Stults (1-2, 4.15) against Matt Cain (0-3, 4.35) in game two of the series. First pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

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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