With a banged-up bench, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after Saturday’s game that pitcher Madison Bumgarner had been “on my left shoulder, wearing me out” about his availability to pinch-hit.
Sunday, Bumgarner got his chance. With starter Matt Cain at 93 pitches after five hitless innings, Bochy sent Bumgarner up to hit for Cain leading off the bottom of the fifth. And Bumgarner lined a double off the wall in right-center field.
“I thought that could be Matt’s last inning, so we got Bum ready, he got some swings in the cage,” Bochy said. “Pretty impressive pinch-hit, wasn’t it?”
It set up what proved to be the winning run as the Giants beat the Nationals, 3-1. Bochy replaced Bumgarner with a pinch-runner – fellow pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who scored on Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon’s throwing error.
“It’s definitely a little bit different to get pinch-hit for by another pitcher,” Cain said. “But I definitely tip my hat to him. He’s a better hitter than I am.”
The double was Bumgarner’s first pinch-hit appearance this season, but going back to last year he has three hits and a walk in his last five such plate appearances.
“It’s fun just to be a part of the game and get a chance to help the team win when you’re not out there pitching,” Bumgarner said. “It’s a pretty neat opportunity. I’m just glad that it worked out.”
It’s an attitude shared by Samardzija, who Bochy said is “sometimes politicking to get an at-bat, too.” With Brandon Crawford (bruised hand) and Denard Span (sore quad) out Sunday, Bochy took advantage of his pitchers’ eagerness.
“These guys knew our situation and that we needed them available,” Bochy said. “Both of them wanted to be in the game.”
* Samardzija’s was the decisive run as Cain earned his 100th career win, more on which can be found here. But there were plenty of subplots as the Giants won back-to-back games for the first time since the All-Star Break.
Mac Williamson left the game in the sixth inning after attempting a sliding catch in left field with what Bochy termed a “jammed” left shoulder. The good news is Williamson does not believe the injury is serious.
With runners on first and second, Williamson dropped Chris Heisey’s blooper but found the ball and made a three-hop throw to third base for a force-out. Williamson said he thought he might have rolled onto his left shoulder grabbing for the ball and extended it.
“My shoulder kind of popped or something and it kind of went numb for a little bit,” he said. “Leading off that next inning I wasn’t quite sure if I would be able to swing or not. So we iced it and checked it out. But the range of motion’s good and strength is good. I probably just jammed it a little bit there.”
Williamson said he responded well enough to strength tests that the Giants did not think further medical tests were necessary. He said after the game he felt “all right now, just a little sore.”
The Giants are off Monday, giving Williamson an extra day to recover. Bochy said the outfielder is “day to day.”
* Span did come off the bench in the seventh inning and delivered a key pinch-hit triple that set up the Giants’ third run. Span looked good running around the bases but admitted he was a little hesitant at first because of his sore quad.
“Right out of the box I was going to take it pretty easy,” he said.
When he saw the ball rattling around in Triples Alley, though, Span said he turned on full speed and legged out an easy triple.
“I just said, ‘I gotta go, I’ve come this far,’” Span said.
* George Kontos gave up Cain’s no-hitter and shutout in the sixth inning. But the Giants bullpen held the lead a day after combining for five scoreless innings in Saturday’s win.
“Everyone wanted to get on their case at the end of the first half,” Williamson said of the bullpen. “But they’ve kept us in games lately, even the ones we’ve lost.”
Perhaps no Giants reliever has been as vilified as closer Santiago Casilla. But against the backdrop of speculation the Giants are searching for late-inning relief help before the non waiver trade deadline Monday, Casilla notched his 24th save – striking out N.L. batting average leader Daniel Murphy on three swings at outside fastballs for the final out.
“This is a tough time for the players, this time of year,” Bochy said. “It’s part of baseball, you’re going to hear rumors and talks about, we’re going to get this or that. But when that happens you hope that the player does what he’s doing and makes a statement: ‘Hey we’re fine here, I’m fine in this role.’
“That’s a tough hitter he had to get out there to end the game. (Casilla has) really picked up his game, you go back to New York and what he did for us the last two nights. He is really, I think, trying to show that he is the guy.”
Overall, Bochy said Monday’s off-day is coming at a good time for the bullpen, which has been used a lot lately.
* It’s a small step, but the Giants won consecutive games for the first time since the All Star Break and are 4-11 in the second half as they prepare for what should be a difficult nine-game, East Coast road trip through Philadelphia, Washington and Miami – where the Marlins are playing well.
“We needed a couple wins in a row,” Bochy said. “To lose the first two (against the Nationals) and have a chance to lose another series here at home, that can affect the ballclub. The way they bounced back and won the next two, split against a very good ballclub, that’s huge for their confidence, and hopefully we get this mojo going now.”