SAN FRANCISCO -- The last time he took the mound, in Detroit on Sept. 6, Madison Bumgarner threw six innings and did not record a strikeout for the first time in his big-league career. Friday night against the Dodgers, he set the San Francisco-era record for the most strikeouts by a left-hander in a single season.
Bumgarner also helped the Giants take the opener of their showdown series against the Dodgers, 9-0, buoyed by a balanced offensive attack that included six of the nine runs being driven in by No. 8 hitter Brandon Crawford and pinch hitter Travis Ishikawa. In comments after the game, Ishikawa dropped a "Baseball’s funny like that" -- and while he wasn’t talking about Bumgarner’s strikeout situation, it would have applied.
For his second consecutive outing, Bumgarner started the first inning at 199 strikeouts for the season. This time he recorded No. 200 in the second inning, becoming the fifth Giants left-hander ever to reach that mark in a single season. He finished with nine strikeouts in the game, giving him 208 for the season, passing Ray Sadecki (206 in 1968) for the most by a Giants left-hander in the San Francisco era.
"I did not know that," Bumgarner said. "I saw it on the board when it happened."
Did it resonate at all?
"Well yeah," Bumgarner shrugged. "That’s a nice accomplishment. This team has been around for a long time and had a lot of really good players and talent come through. It’s hard to believe, really."
It’s a nice indication, though, of the season Bumgarner is having. He recorded his 18th win Friday night, putting him in a four-way tie for the major-league lead with Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright. It speaks to the seasons the other three are having that Bumgarner’s 2.91 ERA ranks fourth among them, his 208 strikeouts are third and his opponents’ average of .238 is also fourth.
"There are a lot of good pitchers in the National League this year, but he should be up there in the Cy Young vote," Crawford said. "He’s done this all season. We feel real good about him going out there every game."
Friday’s was not just any game. It was the opener of maybe the most anticipated series so far this season at AT&T Park, and the crowd made that known from the first inning. Even Bumgarner acknowledged it was "as close as you can get to a playoff atmosphere without actually being in the playoffs, I would say."
Under those circumstances, Bumgarner came up with one of his best outings of the year. He scattered three hits over seven innings and allowed a runner to reach third in just one inning -- the fifth, when the Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs and Bumgarner got Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to end the threat.
"He’s thrown a lot of these, especially in important games, and he’s the guy we want out there," Bochy said. "When you have a series like this, we had the right guy starting it for us. And he got us off to a great start, but the bats did it for us tonight, too."
The Giants staked Bumgarner to a four-run lead in the first, and he credited the early lead with taking some pressure off of him. "You’re able to challenge guys a little more, just go out there and try to get some quick outs," he said. "If you get behind in the count, you’re not afraid to leave one over the middle here and there. You’re still trying to make pitches, but it just makes it easier to challenge guys and go after them."
The result: Bumgarner completed seven innings on 97 pitches, 73 of them strikes. His last was a 94 mph fastball to strike out Joc Pederson for No. 208 on the year. With three starts to go, he’ll likely be hard-pressed to catch Cy Seymour, who set the franchise record for a left-hander with 239 strikeouts in 1898. Still a very realistic possibility, though: 20 wins, which the Giants have not had a starter reach since John Burkett and Bill Swift both did it in 1993.
Asked if that’s a goal, Bumgarner said: "No, I don’t really set goals. Obviously it’d be nice to at least give your team a chance tow in every time you’re out there. So that’s really all I’m thinking about."
In Bochy’s words, in one of Bumgarner’s biggest starts of the season Friday night, he did that and more.
* The print story gets into the Giants’ fast start and all-around night on offense, in which they totaled 12 hits by nine different players and tagged Hyun-Jin Ryu for four runs in the first to get the "Beat L.A." chants going early.
Probably the most indicative stat: Six of the Giants’ nine RBIs came from the No. 8 and 9 spots in the order, with Crawford hitting an RBI double and two-run homer and Ishikawa pinch-hitting for Bumgarner in the seventh and hitting a three-run home run.
It’s that kind of balanced attack the Giants leaned on in the first two months of the season and that went missing when they began their nose-dive in June. Its return, Crawford said, is "a big reason why we’ve been winning games. We’ve been consistent throughout the lineup, and even guys off the bench have done outstanding. That’s a big key for us."
Bochy also pointed to the offense when asked what’s behind the Giants’ resurgence at AT&T Park, where they’ve now won 10 games in a row. When they were struggling at home, he said, "we had some pretty good starts during that tough time -- I don’t know how many quality starts we had, but there were quite a few in there, and the bats just got quiet.
"Now the guys have their confidence swinging in this ballpark," he said. "Now they’re finding a way to get runs on the board for these pitchers, and I think that’s the biggest difference now why we’ve having success."
The proof: In their 10-game home winning streak, the Giants have outscored opponents by a combined total of 67-14.
* The seventh-inning homer, which only extended an already comfortable lead for the Giants, was particularly satisfying for Ishikawa. It reached McCovey Cove on the fly, making it the 102nd "Splash Hit" in AT&T Park history, the 67th by a Giant, and the first by Ishikawa, who played his first game in this stadium in 2006 and is now in his second tour with the team that drafted him.
"I was telling somebody in the dugout, it took me eight years to finally do it," Ishikawa said with a grin. "It was good to finally hit that."
Ironically, it came against Kevin Correia, another former Giant who was actually taken in the same 2002 draft as Ishikawa. Ishikawa said the two hadn’t crossed paths much in the minors, but that he has gotten to know Correia a little bit over the years. The right-hander threw a first-pitch changeup to Ishikawa inside, and Ishikawa kept it just inside the right-field foul pole on its way into the water.
Ishikawa later said he’d once done a Q&A session with fans in which a kid asked him if he had ever had a Splash Hit. "All I could say was in batting practice," Ishikawa said. "At least now I can be honest and say I’ve done it once."
* Ryu did not return for the second inning, and the Dodgers announced he left the game with tightness in his throwing shoulder. In 26 starts this season, Ryu has allowed a total of 12 earned runs in the first inning. Ten of those have come in two outings against the Giants -- April 4 in Los Angeles, and Friday night.
Crawford said he "didn’t see anything" bothering Ryu from watching him in the first or during his at-bat. "I thought he looked fine -- he’s a tough pitcher," Crawford said. "I didn’t notice anything."
* Giants starters in their last 11 games at AT&T Park: 79 innings pitched, eight earned runs allowed for a 0.91 ERA, 86 strikeouts, 14 walks. The offense may have picked up recently, but the home winning streak has been fueled by the pitching.
* Crawford’s two-run homer in the fifth was his first since July 18 in Miami, a span of 147 at-bats. Hunter Pence, meanwhile, went 2-for-5 and stretched his streak of reaching base safely via hit or walk to 29 games, the longest active streak in the majors.
* In fact, really the only Giants starter who didn’t get in on the offensive fun on Friday was Bumgarner, who struck out three times, including once with the bases loaded in the third. Being reminded of that drew a chuckle from Bumgarner, who already has two grand slams this season.
"Yeah, I don’t know what happened," he said. "Don’t think I wasn’t trying."
For that to be pretty much the only negative, it was a good night for Bumgarner and the Giants. They can pull even with the Dodgers with a win in game two of this series. It’ll be Zack Greinke (14-8, 2.73) opposing Tim Hudson (9-10, 3.12). First pitch at 6:05 p.m.