SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers, and some fans, came bearing gifts Friday night. The Giants took the ones they wanted.
A taut affair between rivals became a blowout in the sixth inning after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, his team already booked for the playoffs, took starter Rich Hill out with a one-run lead. The Giants, still fighting for their postseason lives, broke out for seven runs in the inning, and that was more than enough for Madison Bumgarner to notch his 100th career victory in a critical 9-3 win.
Both the Mets and Cardinals won their openers of the season’s final weekend. Following suit, the Giants remained a game behind New York for the top wild-card spot and game ahead of St. Louis for the second berth. They also dealt a blow to the Dodgers’ chances of overtaking the Washington Nationals for home-field advantage in the division series.
"It’s up to us," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We’ve got to win ballgames. And that’s the way you want it. You wouldn’t want it any different than to go out there and try to take care of business yourself."
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The implications of Friday night could be read in the body language of the Giants, who have often seemed to lack fire during their second-half slide. Conor Gillaspie hit the go-ahead, two-run double in the sixth and popped up out of his slide screaming. Bumgarner followed with a two-run double of his own and punched the air as he neared second base. Brandon Belt hit a three-run homer later in the inning and raised his fist to the sky.
The most physical moment of the night, though, had little to do with the game. In the top of the fourth inning, a fan wearing a blue shirt ran onto the field and approached several Giants players holding out what appeared to be a white flower. Buster Posey pushed the fan away and Bumgarner struck a defensive pose on the mound before the fan headed out toward left fielder Angel Pagan.
Pagan held out a hand as if asking for the flower. When the fan got near him, Pagan put him in a full-body hold and wrested him to the ground. Security members carried the fan off the field as fans applauded.
"I was just trying to protect myself and protect my teammates," Pagan said. "The guy had good speed so it was going to take a long time for him to be taken down. And Bum was on a roll, so I wanted the game to keep going."
It made for a humorous moment. But it also interrupted a taut, important game for several minutes. And several Giants afterward emphasized that any instance of a fan coming onto the field of play brings a level of apprehension.
"You never know what those guys have or don’t have," Bumgarner said. "You’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do to protect yourself and get those guys out of there."
"It’s just weird," Posey said. "Anytime somebody comes on the field you’re a little bit uneasy.
"But I think he probably should’ve been charged for a flop. I didn’t push him that hard."
Bochy said in those instances his preference is that his players "stay away, because you never know what can happen there. But that’s Angel. He was going to help the cause."
Pagan, rather than staying away, beckoned the fan to come closer.
"Nervousness?" Pagan said. "No. I just wanted to tackle him. I don’t want to harm him or anything. I just wanted to help the security people as well as protect my teammates.
"He came and I executed."
With order restored, Bumgarner continued to settle in after a rocky first inning in which the Dodgers scored twice on four consecutive hits. Yasiel Puig, with whom Bumgarner had almost come to blows the last time these teams played, roped an RBI double to left field, and Carlos Ruiz followed with a bloop single to score Puig.
The Giants answered in the bottom of the inning. Gorkys Hernandez doubled off of Hill and Belt drew a walk, and they scored on a single by Posey and a Pagan sacrifice fly. It remained tied until the Dodgers strung together three singles in the top of the sixth, with Bumgarner’s nemesis Kike Hernandez (12-for-24) making it 3-2.
Before the game, Roberts had said he intended to use this series partially to prepare his players for the postseason. On Friday, that meant replacing Hill with Brandon McCarthy, and the Giants took full advantage of that move.
McCarthy faced six batters in the sixth and did not retire one. Pagan walked, Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson singled and Gillaspie roped a pinch-hit double down the right-field line that put the Giants ahead, igniting a sellout crowd that brought to AT&T Park a whiff of October.
"It was high," Posey said of the energy level. "I thought Conor’s hit coming off the bench there and driving in a couple really set us up for the big inning."
It also kept Bumgarner in the game. Bochy said he had a pinch-hitter ready had Gillaspie made an out, but with the lead he let Bumgarner hit, and drove in his eighth and ninth RBIs of the season with a double to left. Having reached second, he stood on the base and roared, clenching his fists.
"Just being able to come through and get a couple more runs for us," Bumgarner said of his reaction.
"This is an exciting time of the year. So you’re going to see a lot of emotion from guys and a lot of guys step up, and that’s good."
After Denard Span singled, Josh Ravin replaced McCarthy, and Belt hammered Ravin’s second pitch over the wall in straightaway center to cap the scoring. Bumgarner stayed in the game long enough to record the first out of the eighth and left the field to a standing ovation in what was likely his last appearance of the regular season.
Unless the Giants use him in emergency relief this weekend -- not a foreign scenario -- Bumgarner will finish the season 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and 251 strikeouts in 227 2/3 innings. The last three numbers are all career bests, and his 251 strikeouts are the most by a left-handed pitcher in Giants franchise history.
Bumgarner is also the third-youngest pitcher to win 100 games all in a Giants uniform at 27 years and 60 days. Only Christy Mathewson (24, 262) and Hal Schumacher (24, 234) were younger.
"I mean, that’s special to me just to get the opportunity to do that," Bumgarner said. "But there’s a lot more at stake right now."
The Giants could clinch a spot in the wild-card game as early as Saturday, if they win and the Cardinals lose. They will, however, be facing Clayton Kershaw, a difficult task under any circumstances. Opposing Kershaw will be Ty Blach, making his second major-league start, a left-hander facing a Dodgers lineup that has struggled this season against lefties.
"We’re on a mission right now," Pagan said. "We already started the playoffs right here. Tomorrow we’ve got one of the best pitchers in the game, so we’ve got to come back and just keep battling. We’ve got a good chance, but we cannot take it for granted. We’ve got to get it done."