When Buster Posey lifted a 1-0 fastball from Arizona left-hander Vidal Nuno into the left-field seats for a fifth-inning grand slam Sunday, giving the Giants a 4-1 lead and the kind of clutch hit that has eluded them for much of the past month, manager Bruce Bochy said it “just kind of gave a sense of relief throughout the dugout.”
And when pitcher Madison Bumgarner hit a grand slam an inning later?
“I mean,” Posey said with a grin, “you’re just kind of shaking your head.”
Bochy said he had “never seen” the display put on by his battery in the Giants’ 8-4 win over the Diamondbacks – which isn’t surprising, because nobody had.
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This was the first time in major-league history a team’s starting pitcher and catcher hit a grand slam in the same game, the Giants said, citing the Elias Sports Bureau. It was the third time in the San Francisco era the Giants hit two slams in one game.
Posey’s third career grand slam, which came with two outs, was in Bumgarner’s estimation, “Huge. That’s what big-time players do. He’s one of the best already, and it was a big situation, a big hit.”
If Posey’s was huge, Bumgarner’s was historic. With no outs, Bumgarner came up against reliever Matt Stites and crushed the first pitch – a 98-mph fastball – on a line over the left-field wall.
It was Bumgarner’s second grand slam of the season – he also hit one April 11 against Colorado – making him the second pitcher in major-league history to hit two in a season. Tony Cloninger hit two in the same game July 3, 1966, for Atlanta against the Giants at Candlestick Park.
“It’s crazy to get that many opportunities as a pitcher,” Bumgarner said. “Just to happen to run into something is pretty special. That guy was throwing really hard. Just tried to get ready early, do something to help us, and fortunately it happened to be a home run.”
Bumgarner was headed to Minneapolis as a National League All-Star after the game, presumably for his credentials as a pitcher, which include 10 first-half wins and a 3.47 ERA. But his hitting numbers aren’t bad, either. He leads all pitchers in homers (three), RBIs (12) and hits (11) and is batting .275 with a .550 slugging percentage.
“He’s going to be hard to deal with in this locker room, getting two grand slams,” said a deadpan Tim Hudson, who Sunday was named to the All-Star roster as Bumgarner’s replacement because the left-hander pitched the final day before the break.
“He’s already kind of hard to deal with,” Hudson continued, “but after today it’s going to be extra so.”
In fact, Bumgarner mostly played down his day with the bat – he also doubled in the fifth inning and scored on Posey’s slam – saying it “might have been a little more fun had I not gone out there and given it up a little bit in the seventh.”
Bumgarner allowed one run over his first six innings, but he gave up a two-run homer to Cody Ross and an RBI double to Nick Evans in the seventh and was removed after Evans’ hit at 92 pitches.
Bumgarner said he hasn’t been pleased with his inability to post shut-down innings in his past 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.”
The eight runs were the most the Giants have scored in a game since June 1 at St. Louis. They entered the day averaging just 2.81 runs over their previous 31 games – the second-lowest number in the majors since June 9 – a big reason for their major-league-worst 9-22 record during that stretch.
By taking two of three from Arizona, the Giants won a series at AT&T Park for the first time since sweeping the New York Mets from June 6-8.
Despite their slump since that sweep, the Giants are only one game behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L. West.
“I thought this game today was critical, to take the series, to go into the (second) half on a good note so guys feel good about themselves,” Bochy said. “It’s going to be a battle in the second half, but somehow we’ve hung in there.”