Madison Bumgarner will not pitch in the All-Star Game this year. But Sunday, on a national television broadcast in the Giants’ final game before the break, he held his own showcase.
Bumgarner threw a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Jake Lamb lined a clean single to right field with one out. The left-hander settled for his fourth career one-hitter, matching his career high with 14 strikeouts and leading the Giants to their majors-best 57th win.
“You hate to see him get this close and not quite get it done,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s one box he hasn’t checked off. He’s done about everything else. So we were pulling for him hard.”
At 26, Bumgarner already has three World Series titles, one World Series MVP award, four All-Star selections, two Silver Sluggers and arguably the best individual postseason ever by a pitcher in 2014. Sunday was the third time he has taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning – but his dominance made it perhaps his closest miss.
“I thought he was going to throw a no-hitter,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “His stuff was that good tonight.”
“Bum was on,” Bochy agreed. “He was on with all his pitches. He wasn’t putting a lot of effort in it, he had a good breaking ball, cutter, fastball was used well, both sides. He was just on top of his game.
“He’s thrown one-hitters before, but I think this one’s as impressive as any of them.”
Even Bumgarner, who typically downplays such talk, admitted having thoughts of finally accomplishing the feat that has been as elusive as one of his curveballs Sunday.
“When you get through seven, you go out there and you’ve got six more outs to get, you feel like you have a pretty good chance,” he said. “It just hasn’t worked out for me. But it’s all right. I’ll take the complete-game shutout anytime. Definitely not disappointed.”
Bumgarner sailed in his first time through the Diamondbacks’ order, striking out five. He froze Paul Goldschmidt on a full-count back-door curveball and recorded the other four strikeouts swinging.
Because of an unusual 5 p.m. start for ESPN’s broadcast, starting around the third inning shadows fell between the mound and the plate, making it tougher for hitters to pick up pitches. His second time through the order, Bumgarner struck out seven of nine batters.
The Diamondbacks’ lone runner to that point had reached when Lamb flied a ball to right field that Gregor Blanco dropped for an error with two outs in the fifth. Blanco later said he hadn’t seen the ball off the bat and lost it again in the sun just as he tried to make the catch. In the dugout between innings, he approached Bumgarner.
“I went to him and said I’m sorry about that ball, I dropped it, it was right in the sun and I couldn’t do too much about it, but I was really trying,” Blanco said. “He supported me … And after that he kept throwing.”
Bumgarner struck out Brandon Drury to end the fifth, giving him 11. It marked his 29th career double-digit strikeout game, the second most for a San Francisco Giants pitcher behind Tim Lincecum’s 36.
Bumgarner had just fanned Yasmany Tomas to tie his career high of 14 – reached twice last year – when Lamb lined a 2-2 pitch into right.
“It was a cutter,” Bumgarner said. “It was more middle than I wanted it to be, but wasn’t a terrible pitch. He’d popped it up the at-bat before. We were just trying to make pitches and go after guys, and he got a hit.”
In the dugout, Bochy said, the Giants “were disappointed and living on every pitch, just like the fans, trust me.”
An announced crowd of 42,075 sent up a collective groan. Bumgarner punched his glove. But he promptly induced an inning-ending double play and another from Jean Segura in the ninth on his season-high 117th pitch to end the game.
“The thing I liked about what happened, after the base hit, he kept his focus,” Bochy said. “He didn’t let that one hit bother him, which you see a lot with pitchers who get that close.”
Bumgarner got all the run support he needed in the first inning. Denard Span singled, Angel Pagan doubled, and they scored on a Buster Posey single and Crawford sacrifice fly. Crawford drove in two more runs with a double in the seventh, bringing his team-leading RBI total to 61. Bumgarner took care of the rest.
“He got us involved there late with a couple double plays,” Crawford said. “So that was nice of him.”
This first half was Bumgarner’s best in his seven major-league seasons. He went 10-4, ranking second among N.L. starters in ERA (1.94), third in strikeouts (146) and second behind teammate Johnny Cueto in innings pitched (129 2/3). Bumgarner and Cueto combined for seven complete games. The Giants went 29-8 in their starts, a main reason they enter the All-Star break with the majors’ best record at 57-33.
Given those numbers, Bochy was tempted to say that Bumgarner, despite his accolades, may still be improving.
“Nothing surprises us with what he does,” Bochy said. “And that he can elevate his game and get even better is a credit to him, because he works as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen at his craft.”
Bochy was asked if he thinks Bumgarner will eventually pitch a no-hitter.
“No question,” he said, before catching himself. “Well, I say no question. It shows you how difficult it is to throw a no-hitter. It takes luck, too.
“I see it happening with him, though.”