Bumgarner, Posey combine to send Giants into All-Star Break on historic note
07/13/2014 7:31 PM
07/13/2014 7:34 PM
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said this weekend his team's first half has really been "a tale of two halves."
There was the very good first part, in which the Giants went 42-21 in their first 63 games for the majors' best record. And there was the very bad second part, in which they went 10-22 over their final 32 games, the majors' worst record after June 9, losing all of what had been a 9 1/2-game division lead while their offense largely went into hiding.
The very bad second half ended on a high note Sunday, on several fronts. Early in the day it was announced Tim Hudson had officially been named to the N.L. All-Star team as the replacement for Madison Bumgarner, who pitched Sunday and therefore wasn't going to pitch in the midsummer classic. The Giants then beat the Diamondbacks, 8-4, behind two grand slams from catcher Buster Posey and Bumgarner, to win their first series at AT&T Park since early June and stay within a game of the Los Angeles Dodgers at the break.
All things considered, Bochy said, "It's what I thought it'd be, a tight race ... We've been a tale of two teams, but you can't look at what's happened, you can't change that. We can change how things go from here.
"This offense, they hit a skid there, but I thought this was a big game for them. And the break's probably now coming at a good time. Give some guys a break, and hopefully we'll get it clicking here."
The eight runs the Giants scored on two big swings Sunday were the most they've scored in a game since June 1. Posey hadn't homered since June 14, a span of 84 at-bats. Overall the Giants had nine hits, including three with runners in scoring position -- the first time in 17 games they've had more than two such hits.
Bochy said he thought Posey's slam, which came with two outs in the fifth and the Giants still searching for their first run off left-hander Vidal Nuno, "just kind of gave a sense of relief throughout the dugout. We've been missing that hit." Bumgarner also said Posey's homer was "huge. That's what big-time players do. He's one of the best already, and it was a big situation, a big hit."
As for Bumgarner's, Posey said: "I mean, you're just kind of shaking your head." As a team the Giants have four grand slams on the season. Bumgarner owns two of them. He became just the second pitcher in major-league history with two grand slams in a season, while he and Posey are the first starting battery mates ever to both hit grand slams in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"I see him hit every day, so I understand what kind of power he has," Hudson said. "He's going to be hard to deal with in this locker room, getting two grand slams. He's already kind of hard to deal with anyway, but after today it's going to be extra so."
Tomorrow's print story has plenty more on the historic nature of Sunday's power display, and on the Giants wrapping up the season's ceremonial first half. They do so at 52 wins, equaling their most at the break since 2003, and set up for a race with the Dodgers to the finish line in September. Bumgarner summed the latter up this way:
"We've got a little momentum now going in. Everybody get some rest and just clear their head, come back and finish strong in the second half, and see what happens."
Hudson said he actually learned several days ago he'd be replacing Bumgarner on the active N.L. roster for the All-Star Game. But it didn't become official until Bumgarner actually threw a pitch Sunday.
For Hudson, it's his first trip to the All-Star Game since 2010 with the Braves and fourth overall. Given how his 2013 season ended, with the right-hander writhing in pain near the first-base line after suffering a freak ankle injury covering the bag, Hudson admitted this is probably the most unlikely, if not the most meaningful.
"They're all very exciting to be a part of," Hudson said Sunday. "Obviously after how my season ended last year and the uncertainty, this is the first half of a season that I don't think me or anybody else really anticipated. So it's very satisfying."
Hudson ended the first half 7-6 with a 2.87 ERA. Though the ERA jumped by more than a run over his last five outings after hovering at or below 2.00 for most of the half, there wasn't much more the Giants could have expected after signing the 38-year-old to a two-year contract this offseason not knowing exactly how he'd recover from the ankle injury.
Bochy acknowledged Sunday he thought Hudson "may have some issues" with the ankle, and said there may have been a few instances early in the year where "it got a little sore." But overall, Hudson has shown few ill effects from the injury, while typically meeting the expectation Bochy said he had for Hudson coming in.
"That he would on a consistent basis give us a chance to win, throw a lot of quality starts, which he has done," Bochy said. "I think he's even exceeded those, a lot of those outings have been so good."
Only five times in his first 18 outings has Hudson failed to record a quality start. Bochy joked the biggest gripe with Hudson so far might be his hitting -- he's just 2-for-35 after looking in spring training like he'd be "one of our better-hitting pitchers."
"I think everybody knew how good of a pickup it was going to be," Bumgarner said. "But he definitely hasn't disappointed, and he deserves to go as much as anybody, if not more so than most people. So, happy to see him going."
Bumgarner will still be in Minneapolis as a spectator to the All-Star festivities. He and Hunter Pence will simply now have another teammate there in Hudson, who said he is looking forward to this trip because his family is going as well.
"My kids are going to be a part of it. They're all old enough to really understand what's going on and take everything in," Hudson said. "So that's one of the biggest reasons I'm really excited."
In light of the Hudson news, Bochy also announced after the game his rotation for the second half. It goes: Bumgarner, Hudson, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain.
That could change if Hudson is used extensively in the All-Star Game, Bochy said. But the idea is to get Matt Cain some added rest out of the break. Bochy insisted that nothing is physically wrong with Cain. But the right-hander has clearly not been himself in the first half, going 2-7 with a 4.18 ERA in 15 starts while having two different stints on the disabled list.
"We just think it'd be good to back him up," Bochy said. "We think that's going to benefit him. Timmy's throwing the ball well, Huddy, Bum, Vogey, so this allows us to do this for Matt."
As impressive as Bumgarner was with the bat Sunday, he wasn't thrilled about his work on the mound. He allowed just one run over the first six innings, but gave up a two-run homer to Cody Ross and RBI double to Nick Evans in the seventh, departing after Evans' hit at 92 pitches.
Bumgarner said he hasn't been pleased with his inability to shut down innings in his last four starts, and that he intends to use the break to study those outings and figure out if he has been too predictable with certain pitches. "Today wasn't terrible," he said. "But if we didn't score a lot of runs, it could've been a different story."
They did score a lot of runs, though, thanks in large part to Bumgarner. Bochy was asked in seriousness if he would ever consider using Bumgarner as a DH in interleague games in A.L. parks -- and said no.
"There's some risk involved there," Bochy said. "Here's your guy that went opening day for you, I don't know I would take that chance."
If he ever reconsidered, though, Bochy could do worse. Bumgarner leads all pitchers at the break in homers (three), hits (11) and RBIs (12), and is batting .275 with a slugging percentage of .550.
One reason Bumgarner didn't give up more runs Sunday, though, was because the Giants played a really good game on defense. Hunter Pence threw out Ender Inciarte at third base for the first out of the game as Inciarte tried to advance on Martin Prado's single. Pence made another nice play in the sixth, a running catch of Paul Goldschmidt's drive near the wall with Prado on second base.
Pablo Sandoval followed with a diving stop of Mark Trumbo's grounder and made a strong throw to retire Trumbo and strand Prado. The Giants still led 4-1 at that point, and both plays undoubtedly saved a run.
Brandon Belt was scratched from the lineup with back stiffness, but Belt said afterward it's something he has dealt with periodically in the past and he fully expects to play when the Giants open the second half in Miami next Friday.
Most of the Giants now go their separate ways the next few days before reconvening in Miami on the other side of the break. Until then, here's a last word from Posey following a roller-coaster of a first half:
"I think the challenge for us is we have to look at the overall record right now. We're still in a good spot, as poorly as things have gone for us the past month
"We're going into the break either a game back or tied. And we have to go forward these last 70 games or so."
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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