San Francisco Giants

Giants notes: NLCS Game 1 starters have earned respect as hitters, too

Asked Friday if he’ll have to treat opposing starter Madison Bumgarner as “another hitter” when the Giants hurler comes up to bat in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday, Adam Wainwright recited Bumgarner’s hitting statistics this season.

“(He) can hit a home run as far as anybody I’ve seen,” the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander said. “He’s a big, strong fella, so I will respect him.”

Wainwright isn’t exactly a slouch with the bat, either, with a career .202 average and six homers – and one double off Bumgarner in six at-bats.

“You’ve got to be careful with him, too,” Bumgarner said.

Those pleasantries were exchanged as the pitchers talked to reporters before the teams held light workouts at Busch Stadium on Friday, but when the NLCS begins the focus likely will be more on their work on the mound.

Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) and Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98) both had Cy Young Award-caliber seasons and are the aces of their staffs.

Wainwright allowed six runs on 11 hits in 41/3 innings in Game 1 of the N.L. Division Series against the Dodgers, and concerns arose afterward about his pitching elbow.

Wainwright insisted Friday that those concerns are “way overblown,” and that while he did deal with elbow soreness in Game 1, it’s something he has pitched through before and not an issue with his ulnar collateral ligament – a possible precursor to Tommy John surgery.

“The other day I re-aggravated (a) spot on the backside of my elbow, and now I’m on the mend,” Wainwright said. “I’m very confident about it because I felt that before, the exact same thing, and I was able to recover very well. I have no doubts going into tomorrow.”

Bumgarner is in a much better place now than when he pitched against St. Louis in the NLCS two years ago. The left-hander was removed from the rotation after a 6-4 loss in Game 1. He said that when the Cardinals scored the six runs off him in that game, “I could have been facing a Double-A team and probably got hit around a little bit.” He returned to the rotation in the World Series.

In two starts this postseason, Bumgarner has allowed two earned runs in 16 innings with 16 strikeouts, though his throwing error in Game 3 of the NLDS helped the Nationals get their only win.

On Saturday, he faces a Cardinals lineup that had success against the Dodgers’ left-handed pitching – they beat Clayton Kershaw twice, and five of their seven home runs were against left-handers by left-handed batters – and Bumgarner said he’ll be wary of that.

“It’s not the typical left-on-left matchup,” Bumgarner said. “They’ll stay in there, pull the ball. They seem pretty comfortable facing left-handed pitching. … I just have to be careful and make pitches.”

Et cetera – Giants manager Bruce Bochy named Bumgarner and Jake Peavy as his starters for Games 1 and 2 but did not go beyond that, saying “you can pretty much speculate” the rotation after that, likely Tim Hudson in Game 3 and Ryan Vogelsong in Game 4. But he said Bumgarner returning on short rest in Game 4 is “always a possibility.”

▪ The Giants were waiting to set their 25-man roster for the series until Michael Morse arrived in St. Louis. Morse, who was not on the NLDS roster while recovering from an oblique strain, was expected late Friday night after playing instructional league games in Arizona the past two days to regain his hitting timing. Bochy said Morse homered in one game and the Giants were “really encouraged” by his at-bats. Assuming Morse is healthy, he will be on the roster and Bochy said he would be available off the bench in Game 1.

▪ The Cardinals made one change to their roster from the division series, adding catcher A.J. Pierzynski for reliever Sam Freeman. Manager Mike Matheny said the move was made for “another experienced bat” – Pierzynski is a lifetime .300 hitter in the playoffs – and frees Matheny to use his other backup catcher, Tony Cruz, as a pinch hitter.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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