For Madison Bumgarner, a telling moment on Monday night came when he hit 95 mph on a fastball to the Padres’ Jedd Gyorko in the fifth inning. To reach that velocity, Bumgarner said, "You’ve got to have your delivery together and everything (mechanically) has got to be working together good."
That was not the case for the Giants left-hander in his first few starts this year, including April 11 in San Diego, when these same Padres jumped him for five runs on 10 hits over three innings. Monday night, however, bore more similarities to Bumgarner’s last start – in Los Angeles last week, when he held the Dodgers to one run over eight innings.
Bumgarner did not allow a hit for six innings and finished with 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the Giants’ 2-0 win over the Padres at AT&T Park. After giving up 10 earned runs in 17 innings over his first three starts, Bumgarner has now allowed just three earned runs over 21 2/3 innings in his last three. The Giants have won those three games by scores of 3-2, 2-1 and 2-0.
Bumgarner said after his outing that "Everything’s coming together finally; delivery feels good, all my stuff feels good, command, everything." He said "everything felt like it was there" from the outset against the Padres, which is only the case "when it’s going good."
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As Bumgarner’s reaching 94-95 mph on the radar gun indicated -- and he later confirmed -- Bumgarner and the Giants were able to identify some mechanical issues he was having through his first several starts and address them. Bumgarner didn’t get into specifics over what he changed, but explained it this way:
"It’s just little keys everybody has -- everybody’s got different stuff that they’ve got to focus on, and even if two guys have the exact same mechanics they’re probably going to perceive it differently. There was just a couple little keys for me I had to figure out and get back with and we were able to do it.
"It’d be nice if you didn’t have to worry about that stuff," he said. "But this is a game of constant adjustments. Your body changes all the time and you’ve got to stay on top of it."
Outdueling Clayton Kershaw last week was a sign that Bumgarner had started to figure things out, and Monday reinforced that idea. Despite pitching with some early traffic on the bases thanks to a walk and several Giants errors, Bumgarner got through the first six innings without allowing a hit.
Reliever Sergio Romo said that’s the point in a no-hit bid where "all of the superstitions and whatnot, the stay-away (from the starter in the dugout), they kind of start happening." But Bumgarner, who said the only no-hitter he’s ever thrown came in high school, said he wasn’t thinking about the implications.
"I was still a pretty good ways away from that," he said.
Justin Upton broke up the no-hit bid by looping a 1-2 breaking ball into shallow left field and Yangervis Solarte promptly followed with a single through the left side of the infield. But Bumgarner struck out Gyorko, got Will Middlebrooks to fly out and then blew a high fastball by Clint Barmes to escape the jam.
"He’s been on a good roll," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was out of sync there early. Sometimes it takes two or three games to get settled in. It looks like that’s the case with him because he’s really been locked in here recently. It’s who he is. He’s as good as there is and he’s throwing the ball as good as he did last year."
Romo said that version of Bumgarner is fun to watch.
"Conviction, brute force, strength, pitching, finesse, he can kind of do it all," Romo said. "He’s just finding his stride. I think that’s kind of what’s been going on for us as a team in general. We’re all just finding our stride, we’re all finding our ways to contribute day in and day out. So it’s fun right now."
* The Giants were 3-9 after they lost their eighth consecutive game on April 17. With the win Monday, they pulled back to .500 at 13-13. They’ve won 10 of the last 14 games and seven straight at home
"It’s still early for all that," Bumgarner said of noting records. "But we just want to go out there and play good baseball and we have been."
Their recent 5-1 stretch has been fueled by pitching. Beginning with Bumgarner’s outing against the Dodgers and Kershaw, the Giants’ starters in their last six games have a 2.45 ERA in 40 1/3 innings, with their lone loss going to Ryan Vogelsong in the finale in L.A.
As Bumgarner said, it’s early. But the Giants have played notably better baseball lately -- their four-error performance Monday notwithstanding. The Giants noted it was the first time they’ve committed four errors since last Aug. 25, and the first time they have done so in a shutout win since June 19, 1933, against the Cubs.
"It’s cool that we’ve been able to strap it up and come back, just gotta keep it going," said Romo. "Some of those games we lost earlier, it just seemed like we were one hit away or the ball would bounce our way one time and we’d come up victorious. So I just kinda feel like maybe the ball has bounced our way a little bit."
* Bochy noted that because of Bumgarner’s performance the Giants "got away with mistakes offensively and defensively." The latter showed up in the error total, which included throwing errors by Brandon Crawford, Casey McGehee and Bumgarner himself, and an odd play in the ninth when Santiago Casilla gloved a comebacker and lobbed a throw to first baseman Brandon Belt, who let it pop out of his glove.
Crawford did keep the no-hit bid intact in the third inning when he dove for a Tyson Ross grounder up the middle and threw out the Padres’ athletic pitcher at first. Justin Maxwell also ranged deep into Triples Alley to run down another potential hit by Ross in the fifth inning. So the defense wasn’t all bad.
* It was another tough night for McGehee. Along with the error -- his fifth, which leads N.L. third basemen -- McGehee had a couple of rally-killing at-bats in the early innings.
McGehee came up with two on and nobody out in the second inning and struck out. He batted again with the bases loaded and one out in the third, and hit into a 6-4-3 double play, his majors-leading ninth of the year. After the latter at-bat, there were noticeable boos from the AT&T Park crowd.
Bochy stood behind McGehee after the game, saying he thought the third baseman "was seeing the ball well the last four, five days," and that the hard-throwing Ross is a "tough matchup for righties and lefties too." Bochy added, though, "I thought tonight (McGehee) just got a little anxious.
"First time up, it didn’t look like he got a strike there," Bochy said. "And then he got a pitch he could handle, he just pulled off it a little bit (on the double play). I’ll probably give him a break here and let him catch his breath. But it’s coming with him, I can see it."
McGehee is a career .288 hitter with runners in scoring position. This year, however, he is 1-for-19, and he’s hitless in seven at-bats with a runner on third.
* Angel Pagan has 11 multi-hit games through the Giants’ first 26 after singling in his first two at-bats Monday. His second brought in Nori Aoki for the game’s first run. Over his past 10 games, Pagan is 17-for-42
The role of igniter for the Giants’ offense, though, has shifted from Pagan to their new leadoff hitter. Aoki scored that third-inning run after singling to lead off the inning and stealing second base, his eighth steal of the year.
"He’s out catalyst," Bochy said of Aoki. "He’s a tough out up there, he can steal a base for you. He works the count, does all those little things. He’s played a great defense, too. He’s been a lot of fun to watch."
* Pitching aside, Bumgarner also got his first hit out of the way -- "Finally," he said with a smile -- with a fourth-inning single off Ross. So a good night for him, all around.
Game 2 of the series has Ryan Vogelsong (0-2, 9.31) facing Andrew Cashner (1-4, 2.61). First pitch at 7:15 p.m.