Entering Sunday, the Atlanta Braves had three hitters with pretty good career numbers against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner in a decent sample size. Jonny Gomes was 6 for 8 with two home runs, Juan Uribe was 11 for 36 with one homer, and Chris Johnson was 6 for 18.
It was little surprise, then, that the heart of the Braves’ lineup Sunday against Bumgarner featured those three hitters in that order. And it was those three hitters who accounted for the damage against Bumgarner, who allowed three runs over 61/3 innings and received a no-decision in the Giants’ 7-5 loss.
Gomes singled in the fifth inning and scored on a Johnson single. In the seventh, Uribe hit a two-run homer to left off Bumgarner that scored Gomes, who had walked, and gave the Braves a 3-2 lead. Bumgarner had been perfect through the first four innings but departed with a one-run deficit.
“Just had some balls leak over the middle,” Bumgarner said. “You can get away with ’em here and there, but you can’t expect to against big-league hitters. They’re going to make you pay if you make mistakes.”
The Giants got Bumgarner off the hook for a loss with a three-run seventh before unraveling in the ninth. The Braves’ four-run rally against Santiago Casilla included an error by Brandon Crawford on a potential double-play ground ball that would have ended the game, and Freddie Freeman hitting his second home run in three days against Casilla –who before Sunday hadn’t given up two homers to any one player in his major-league career. The ninth-inning weirdness is covered in detail here.
Unusual as those occurrences were – it was the Giants’ first loss this season when taking a lead into the ninth and Crawford’s play looked routine – Bumgarner said such results are “going to happen.”
“You obviously don’t expect it,” he said, “but at the same time we’ve been playing this game a long time, everybody in here. Nothing’s going to surprise you when it happens.
“Unfortunately, today we weren’t able to hold on. But we played a good ballgame. We didn’t get run over, that’s for sure.”
The Giants were trying for their 22nd win of May, which would have been their most in a month since the 1954 New York Giants went 24-4 in June. Manager Bruce Bochy said he thought Bumgarner, who met the requirements for a quality start, “threw the ball well.” Still, the Giants settled for a 21-9 month and a split with Atlanta after winning the first two games of the series.
“We’ve had a tough couple games here in a row, but we’ve been playing really good,” Bumgarner said. “We can’t dwell on the last two days given what we’ve done and what we’re going to continue to do. Just got to come in (Monday) and be ready to work.”
▪ The Giants made up in May much of the ground they lost during that eight-game losing streak in early April. They started the month four games under .500 and 41/2 games out of first place in the National League West. They go into June with a 30-22 record, trailing the Dodgers by a half-game.
“I don’t really pay attention to the month,” Bumgarner said, “but that’s great. We’ve been playing good for a while now, and we’re going to work to continue that.”
Bochy was a little more effusive, allowing that May was “a good month.”
“Good job from these guys bouncing back,” Bochy said. “We had our ups and downs there, we got off to a tough start, but they really played great ball in the month of May. We’ll put this behind us and come out and be ready to go (Monday).”
▪ The Giants hit three home runs Sunday, one each by Crawford, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik. Belt and Crawford went back-to-back in the second inning, the second time Giants hitters have done that this season (also Nori Aoki and Panik on May 3).
Panik’s two-run homer in the seventh, which gave the Giants a 5-3 lead, came against Braves left-handed reliever Donnie Veal, two batters after pinch hitter Gregor Blanco hit an RBI single off Veal. Giants left-handed hitters had a .306 average last season against left-handed pitching. They’re at it again this year, with a slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) of .307/.395/.438.
Crawford, of course, is leading the charge with a .432 average, two homers and 11 RBIs against left-handers. But Panik is 13 for 35 (.371) and Aoki is 15 for 48 (.313). The numbers for Belt (6 for 30) and Blanco (2 for 13) are less impressive. But as a team, the Giants’ OPS of .833 from left-handed hitters against left-handed pitching is second in the N.L. behind the Chicago Cubs.
▪ One thing this series illustrated is the faith Bochy has in reliever Hunter Strickland right now. On Friday, Strickland was tasked with protecting a 4-2 lead in the eighth. On Sunday, Bochy again brought Strickland into a two-run game in the eighth after Jeremy Affeldt had allowed a single to the first batter of the inning. Strickland faced the Braves’ Nos. 2-4 hitters and got three quick outs.
Since joining the Giants a week ago, Strickland has thrown 71/3 innings in five outings, allowed one hit and struck out eight. He had his issues in the playoffs last season, but already seems to have worked his way back into a key late-innings role.
“He’s throwing the ball very well since he’s been up here,” Bochy said. “He did down in (Triple-A) Sacramento, too. Gave us what we needed there (Sunday).”
▪ June starts with the Giants facing some good pitching in a three-game series against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. The probables for that series:
Monday: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (4-2, 4.24) vs. RHP Gerrit Cole (7-2, 2.11)
Tuesday: RHP Chris Heston (5-3, 3.82) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (5-1, 1.81)
Wednesday: RHP Tim Hudson (3-4, 4.62) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (2-4, 3.47)