SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner says he doesn’t let previous results affect the way he prepares for or performs during his starts. But there’s something to be said about taking the mound as a pitcher the day after your team allowed 17 runs.
"We had to come in and we had to win today," Bumgarner said after pitching the Giants to a 6-4 win over the Rockies on Friday, a night after they were blown out at home, 17-7.
"It’s embarrassing, days like yesterday. And we’ve had a few days this year that have been that way. It’s no fun. This team takes it personal, and they come out ready to go. Nobody’s going to get their feelings hurt and come in the next day still pouting about it. They’re ready to go."
The Giants’ lopsided loss Thursday included a nightmarish 13-run fifth inning, and they appeared to live through that on a smaller scale Friday night in the second, with several softly-hit balls and an error from second baseman Joe Panik building a four-run rally for the Rockies. But this time, the Giants were able to respond.
Brandon Crawford’s three-run home run in the bottom of the second quickly closed the gap back to one run. And Bumgarner did not allow another Rockies runner to reach second base until the eighth inning, striking out a season-high 10 batters and giving the Giants’ offense time to complete a much-needed comeback win.
"He toughened up," manager Bruce Bochy said of Bumgarner. "He bowed his neck and he went out there and got it done for us."
The Rockies’ four-run second began with Nolan Arenado blooping a double into right field. After singles by Mark Reynolds and Ryan Raburn, Gerardo Parra hit a potential double play ball. Panik, back in the lineup after missing six games with a groin injury, fielded the ball cleanly but threw wide of Crawford at second, leaving everyone safe as Reynolds scored.
Colorado scored twice more on a sacrifice fly and a squeeze bunt by pitcher Chad Bettis, putting Bumgarner and the Giants in a four-run hole.
"Seventeen broken-bat hits, bloops, it’s frustrating when it happens," Bumgarner said. "But that’s the way the game is sometimes. That’s what makes it fun to battle through those and get a win for your team."
Shortly thereafter came the hit that Bumgarner said "changed the ballgame." With one out and two on in the bottom of the inning, Crawford hit a two-strike pitch from Bettis into the right-field seats. It brought the Giants back to within a run. On a grander scale, within the Giants’ dugout, it began the comeback from Thursday’s loss.
"That was big," third baseman Matt Duffy said. "That wasn’t just a solo homer or a run-scoring single. That was a big three-run homer that put us right back in the game, and the feeling that we had the momentum again … I think (that) was definitely a mental turning point after yesterday, and after that top of the second inning today."
From there, Bumgarner appeared to bear down. He struck out six of the next nine hitters he faced, en route to his first double-digit strikeout game of the season. Though that left him with a majors-leading total of 55, the left-hander said he doesn’t feel his early-season mechanical issues are completely behind him.
"I’m a perfectionist, so it’s not exactly how I want it," Bumgarner said. "But when you’re out there sometimes you’ve got to throw that aside and just compete. That’s what I did."
The Giants took the lead in the fifth when Denard Span singled, Matt Duffy tripled into the gap and, with two outs, Hunter Pence chopped a ground ball up the middle and beat D.J. LeMahieu’s twisting throw to first for an RBI single. Brandon Belt’s RBI double in the seventh provided a cushion for Bumgarner, who came out to start the eighth having thrown 96 pitches.
Bumgarner allowed a leadoff single to Trevor Story before striking out Carlos Gonzalez -- who entered with a lifetime .348 average against him -- for the third time Friday night. He then gave way to right-hander Cory Gearrin, who surrendered a single to Arenado but struck out Mark Reynolds and coaxed an inning-ending ground ball out of Rayburn.
Given the complexion of the game after the second inning, Bochy said he thought Friday was "probably (Bumgarner’s) best game" of the season. Duffy said Bumgarner appeared sharper Friday night, pointing specifically to a strikeout of Arenado in the third.
"I don’t see many guys break down Arenado’s swing the way he did that one at-bat," Duffy said. "I thought he looked sharper the last few starts, but after that I was like all right, there’s something there."
Bumgarner maintained that his mechanics are no better than last month, when he voiced his displeasure with them. For him, the takeaway from Friday was in quieting the Rockies after the second inning, making possible a Giants response that resonated across multiple nights.
"That’s kind of who I am and who I want to be," he said. "I’ll never go out there and just give in and say, ‘Today’s just maybe not my day, it’s going to be a rough day.’ It may not be very good sometimes. But you’re getting everything that I’ve got."