Needing only a double to hit for the cycle in the seventh inning on Sunday, Pablo Sandoval worked a full count against Brewers reliever Alfredo Figaro – and took a pitch in the dirt for ball four. The show of restraint was less than exciting, but in the spirit of the weekend for the Giants’ offense, it kept the line moving.
The Giants led 7-2 with no outs and Hunter Pence on third base at the time of Sandoval’s walk. When the third baseman came up for his next at-bat, it was still the seventh inning, albeit with two outs, and the Giants had doubled their run total to 14, eclipsing by one run their previous season high – which they’d set two days earlier.
Anemic at bat for so much of the summer, the Giants suddenly looked like an offensive juggernaut in a three-game sweep of the first-place Brewers capped by their 15-5 win on Sunday. They rapped out 16 hits, including 10 for extra bases for the first time at AT&T Park.
The Giants totaled at least 31 runs in a three-game home series for the first time since 2010 and scored in double digits twice after doing so just four times all season before Friday. On the pitching front, Madison Bumgarner threw six innings Sunday, allowing one run, to tie Clayton Kershaw for the major-league lead with his 16th win and cap a strong homestand for Giants starting pitching, which combined for a 1.07 ERA in seven games.
“I like where we’re at,” Bumgarner said afterward. “We’ve turned it on at the best time of year to turn it on, and everything’s starting to come together. All we can do is finish strong and see what happens.”
After going nearly three months without winning three consecutive games at home, the Giants closed out the homestand by winning six in a row and appear to be gaining steam at just the right time as the calendar flips to September. They are 12 games over .500 for the first time since July 24and hold a one-game lead over St. Louis for the National League’s top wild-card spot.
“We’ve got a lot of guys here that know how to win and have done it before,” Bumgarner said. “I feel like we’re starting to play our best baseball of the year.”
Manager Bruce Bochy opted to rest Buster Posey, batting .455 in his last 10 games, and still saw his lineup explode for the most runs the Giants have scored at AT&T Park since a 16-run outburst on Aug. 24, 2010. Posey’s replacement at catcher, rookie Andrew Susac (Jesuit High School), had three hits and drove in three runs. Hunter Pence, hitting in Posey’s normal No. 3 spot, went 4 for 5 with two doubles, a triple and three runs.
Sandoval got things started in the second inning with a leadoff triple that sailed over the head of Ryan Braun in right field. Michael Morse and Gregor Blanco grounded out, failing to drive Sandoval in, but Susac then lined a two-strike slider from right-hander Kyle Lohse into center field for a double that tied the score 1-1.
“I thought his hit was probably as big as any hit today,” Bochy said of Susac. “ ... Things like that get the offense going.”
The Giants tagged Lohse for three runs in the third, two in the fifth on Sandoval’s lofty home run to right field and one more in the sixth on Angel Pagan’s two-out single off the glove of first baseman Jonathan Lucroy that chased Lohse. They then sent 11 men to the plate in the seventh against three Brewers relievers, scoring seven runs on six hits.
The barrage allowed Bochy to remove Bumgarner – whose lone run allowed came when Braun grounded into a double play with runners on the corners in the first inning – after six innings and 96 pitches. Bochy said he wanted to “lighten the load” on the left-hander, who’d pitched a complete game against Colorado in his previous start, while also giving some work to several relievers. They included Tim Lincecum, who made his first appearance since moving to the bullpen and allowed two runs pitching the final two innings.
Bumgarner brought a fitting end to his August, in which he went 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 26 hits allowed in 46 innings. In seven games on this homestand, Giants starting pitchers allowed six earned runs in 50 2/3 innings, struck out 57 batters and walked seven.
The Giants’ run began with a series win over Philadelphia on Aug. 15-17, and Bochy said it was “really important taking that here at home and just getting that confidence, that swagger, back.
“There’s no reason or anything I can give you for why we did struggle here,” he said. “But now I think we’re seeing more of the club that we are.”