As Madison Bumgarner warmed up for the ninth inning Saturday night, the scoreboard at AT&T Park showed a very straightforward video clip on repeat: The shaggy-haired left-hander looking straight into the camera with his dead-eye stare, next to the words: “Madison Bumgarner.”
And that pretty much summed up the Giants’ 8-0 win over the San Diego Padres in which Bumgarner took a perfect-game bid into the eighth inning before Melvin Upton, Jr., lined a single back up the middle with two outs to break it up. Bumgarner settled for a one-hit shutout and his career-high-tying 18th win, giving him a strong shot at becoming the first Giants pitcher to win 20 games in a season since 1993.
The game story covers the details, and touches on the fact that Bumgarner’s manager and teammates believe Upton Jr.’s hit Saturday night just delayed the inevitable. Bumgarner, they say, will finish out one of these no-hitters eventually. Saturday was his third career one-hitter, and the second time he’s taken a perfect game into the eighth.
“It’s just one of those things you know it’s going to happen,” first baseman Brandon Belt said. “We’re just waiting on it.”
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Said manager Bruce Bochy: “You just feel like it’s a matter of time with him.”
And Bumgarner’s response to all that?
“I’m not paying any attention to it at all,” he said. “I’m here to win games and that’s it. All the other stuff’s really cool, and I’ll welcome it for sure. But the main concern is on winning games.”
Perhaps that’s a healthy attitude -- otherwise, nights like Saturday could fray your nerves. Consider that before going up to pinch-hit in the eighth, Upton Jr. had faced Bumgarner a total of 13 times in his career with a line of: 0-for-10, three walks, six strikeouts. Yet on a 2-1 pitch, Upton Jr. got enough of a 93 mph fastball to line it softly back up the middle for the Padres’ lone baserunner of the night.
Bumgarner said he regretted nothing about the pitch.
“I want to go after him, I want to give myself a chance to do it,” Bumgarner said. “I don’t want the first baserunner to be on a walk, so I’m going to come right at you.
“I think it sounded like it broke his bat. I’m not sure if it did, I don’t want to say that if it didn’t. But that’s one of those things where it’s hit one way or the other, somebody might have a chance. But nobody’s standing out there in shallow center field.”
Bumgarner said the last part with a wry grin. He said that he felt no disappointment over losing the perfect game and that he was “just as happy with what we got” -- a win to keep the Giants’ fading postseason hopes on life support.
What he did admit to taking pride in was his fourth complete game of the season. He has now pitched 197 2/3 innings this season and will eclipse the 200-inning mark for a fifth consecutive year. The concerns voiced by some over how Bumgarner would return from his massive workload in the postseason last year apparently were for naught.
“The goal is to go out there and win games and that’s it, but at the same time you like to be the guy that starts the game and also finishes it,” Bumgarner said. “I like to think that answers a lot of the questions coming into the year.”
▪ Many perfect games and no-hitters seem to have that one defensive play that stands out as pivotal. There were a couple candidates in the later innings: Kelby Tomlinson leaping for Derek Norris’ line drive in the seventh inning and Ehire Adrianza going way deep to his back-hand for Justin Upton’s grounder in the eighth.
Bumgarner said he thought Norris’ ball was going to end the bid. But Tomlinson’s catch was a product not only of good reflexes, but perfect positioning by the Giants’ staff. The second baseman hardly had to move laterally to make the catch.
Adrianza’s play, on the other hand, had to be precise and required a strong throw with a speedy Upton running up the line. And it was telling that Bumgarner said afterward that he expected that play to be made.
“Adrianza, we all know what kind of defensive player he is for sure and what kind of range he’s got,” Bumgarner said. “I didn’t feel like (the ball) was going to get through. I felt like he was going to get to it, and he did.”
Adrianza has taken some heat from Giants fans this season largely because of his hitting, and though he certainly isn’t the same hitter as a healthy Brandon Crawford, Saturday’s play helped illustrate why the Giants have stuck behind Adrianza. At the time, he saved the perfect game.
▪ Bumgarner is now 42-1 in his career when he receives six or more runs of support. So the outcome Saturday was pretty much decided when the Giants staked him to a 7-0 lead in the fifth. Marlon Byrd had a two-run double in the fourth and an RBI single in the fifth and is batting .583 in his last six games. Angel Pagan hit his second homer of the season leading off the fifth.
“He’s showing that he’s healthy,” Bochy said of Pagan. “It’s good to see him healthy and running the way he can, not having to deal with the knee there.”
Speaking of running, the Giants flashed some speed on the bases. Tomlinson legged out a triple on a line drive into the left-center field gap. And Alejandro De Aza crushed a ball to Triples Alley that went for a triple in the fifth.
As De Aza got to third base the ball was just reaching the Padres’ first cut-off man in shallow center field, and Buster Posey in the on-deck circle, for one, seemed to want De Aza to try for the inside-the-park home run. Third-base coach Roberto Kelly, however, held him up.
Belt hit his 18th homer of the season, matching his previous career high. Posey reached base twice on walks but had his 11-game hitting streak snapped. It was about the only thing that went wrong for the Giants on the night.
▪ The Giants will try for a much-needed sweep Sunday behind Mike Leake (9-8, 3.70). The Padres were going to start right-hander Colin Rea, but he was reportedly scratched Saturday night, and Odrisamer Despaigne, who pitched two innings in relief on Friday night, will start instead. First pitch at 1:05 p.m.