Giants manager Bruce Bochy thought this might be it. So did first baseman Brandon Belt. With Madison Bumgarner yet again flirting with perfection into the late innings Saturday night, the Giants’ dugout entertained the possibility that the 26-year-old left-hander might add one more distinction to his already decorated resume.
But this achievement would have to wait. Bumgarner had his perfect-game bid broken up by Melvin Upton Jr.’s pinch-hit single with two outs in the eighth inning, and he settled instead for a one-hitter and his career-high-tying 18th win of the season as the Giants beat the San Diego Padres, 8-0, at AT&T Park.
Bumgarner twirled his National League-leading fourth complete game on 111 pitches – never pitching out of the stretch until his 100th – and finished with nine strikeouts. It was his third career one-hitter, including last August 26 against the Rockies, in which Justin Morneau dashed his chance at perfection with a leadoff double in the eighth.
“You just feel like it’s a matter of time with him,” Bochy said. “He’s been so close.”
After Upton’s clean line drive up the middle, a crowd of 41,564 stood and applauded. Bumgarner regrouped quickly, getting Austin Hedges to ground out to end the inning and retiring the Padres in order in the ninth. He became the second pitcher in the majors this season to 18 wins, and helped the Giants keep their fading postseason hopes alive on a night the division-leading Dodgers also won in Arizona.
Afterward, Bumgarner was asked if he was at all disappointed to come so close to perfection and fall short.
“No,” he said, laughing. “No. If there was I wouldn’t tell you, but there’s really not.
“I don’t mean to say I don’t care. But I’m not here to throw perfect games or no-hitters or any of that. It’d definitely be special, no doubt about it. But my main concern is winning games, and that’s it.”
With four starts likely remaining this season, Bumgarner has a good chance at becoming the first Giants pitcher to win 20 games since John Burkett and Bill Swift both eclipsed the number in 1993. The Giants haven’t had a left-hander win 20-plus games since 1973, when Ron Bryant won 24.
But the franchise has thrown no-hitters in each of the last four seasons -- Matt Cain in 2012, Tim Lincecum in 2013 and 2014 and Chris Heston earlier this year -- and Saturday night it looked like Bumgarner would join that group. His fastball honed in on corners and altered eye levels. His cutter darted and his changeup dove. His slider nipped at the back heels of the Padres’ right-handed hitters.
“I think we all felt it once you get in that fifth inning, the way he was throwing the ball,” Bochy said. “He was on tonight. It was all working.”
The Giants by then had already sapped the decision of any drama by handing a 7-0 lead after five innings to Bumgarner, who is now 42-1 in his career when getting six or more runs of support.
Bumgarner said he started to seriously consider the possibilities as he faced the Padres lineup for the third time. He struck out Wil Myers leading off the seventh, but thought that his bid was over when Derek Norris hit a sharp liner toward center field. Second baseman Kelby Tomlinson was shading toward the bag, though, and leapt for the catch.
Shortstop Ehire Adrianza prolonged the drama by going deep in the hole for a backhand play on Justin Upton’s grounder to start the eighth. Jedd Gyorko flied out to right field, and with the pitcher’s spot coming up, the Padres sent up Upton -- who had faced Bumgarner 13 times in his career and had no hits.
“I’m sure he’s disappointed, but he didn’t show it,” Bochy said of Bumgarner. “We’re all a little disappointed. But yet you witnessed just a beautiful game he threw tonight.”