Buster Posey

Dodgers clinch NL West, end Madison Bumgarner’s season, give Giants “fuel for next year”

Madison Bumgarner

It was surprising that it lasted this long, but it’s over now. The Dodgers, riding one of the better outings of Clayton Kershaw’s already-brilliant career, halted their four-game losing streak with an 8-0 win that pushed the Giants’ streak of missing the postseason in odd years to six. The Dodgers celebrated on the AT&T Park mound, fans dressed in blue congregated in the sections next to the visitors’ dugout and cheered Kershaw, who stayed out longer than any other Dodger and soaked it all in.

Bumgarner’s last stand

The symbolism was a little too much to bear. Madison Bumgarner was/is clearly exhausted. After a first inning that was especially long, thanks in part to Kelby Tomlinson’s error on what appeared to be a routine double play grounder, Bumgarner’s pitch count was already into the high-70s in the fifth inning when Kershaw came to the plate.

Bumgarner and Kershaw battled, but the former couldn’t put the latter away. Finally, 13 pitches later, Kershaw grounded out meekly to second, but it was clear who’d last longer on this night. Kershaw had only allowed one Giant to reach base in four innings that took him 45 pitches to complete. Bumgarner, who lasted 270 innings last season and came into this game with 212 2/3 under his belt, wasn’t quite done. But it was close. The Dodgers chased him an inning later with consecutive homers by Justin Ruggiano and A.J. Ellis.

Bumgarner, who pumped his fist after striking out Corey Seager in the first and showed a little more fire after finally ending that marathon battle with Kershaw, admitted he was probably a little too amped up.

“It was a tough one. I didn’t have a whole lot go the way that I wanted to. That’s the way this game is. This game has a lot of ups and downs, got to kind of stay there in the middle. Try to be even keel,” Bumgarner said.

“This is an emotional time of year, competitive time of year. I’m always pretty emotional. I was a little more emotional tonight than I would’ve liked to have been”

It’s a bit of a shame, the way things ended for Bumgarner. He carried this team in August, pitched a near-perfect game in September, and look at these pitch counts in both months.

  • 8/5 @ ATL: 116
  • 8/11 vs. HOU: 105 (complete game)
  • 8/16 vs. WAS: 112 (three-hit shutout)
  • 8/21 @ PIT: 109
  • 8/27 vs. CHI: 98
  • 9/1 @ LAD: 108
  • 9/6 @ COL: 100
  • 9/12 vs. SDP: 111 (1-hit shutout)
  • 9/18 vs. ARI: 117
  • 9/24 @ SDP: 120
  • 9/29 vs. LAD: 112

Bumgarner pitched 11 times over the last two months and threw 1,208 pitches (110 per start). Now his season ends, a month earlier than he had hoped. It was a remarkable year for the starter who kept this rotation from completely falling apart as the summer wore on. The five home runs were incredible, and we’ll always remember how he was used as a pinch-hitter in key late-inning situations (ok, desperate situations) because Bruce Bochy had no better options. But as powerful as his bat was, his left arm was even more impressive.

“Unreal,” said Buster Posey.

https://youtu.be/D0xNOopGmJI

“For the amount of innings that he pitched last year, the amount that he’s accrued this year. It’s hard for people to understand how taxing that is on your body. It’s been a long time since I’ve pitched, but I remember how sore I would get after pitching. It’s a testament to his work ethic and the work he puts in (during) the offseason. It’s something he should be really proud of. I’m proud of him for what he’s done this year.”

The way he finished this season doesn’t match how he ended last season, because no Giants pitcher will ever replicate what Bumgarner did last October. I feel just as safe saying that as I do whenever I think about how Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak will stand the test of forever. Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak, too. But damn, Bumgarner pitched so much in August and September — after all those fears about his workload coming into this season, to boot — that it almost hurt to watch. It was beautiful at the same time, but the pain came in sharp waves while watching three Dodgers trot around the bases after crushing pitches totally unlike what Bumgarner was unleashing in August.

To see the weight of the entire staff slide off of his shoulders in the sixth inning tonight was sad, but we could also think of it another way. Bumgarner lasted the entire season, although he surely won’t pitch on Sunday. He shouldn’t. Bochy wouldn’t make the team’s plans public after the game, but Bumgarner’s season ended today.

https://youtu.be/A6M-aDFPyW0

“Bum had a tremendous year, what a great year,” Bochy said. “There were questions with the workload that he had last year, ‘would it catch up with him?’ He throws all these beautiful games that we’ve seen so many times … He’s special. He should be proud of his year.”

He’s put his body through the kind of workload that’s unthinkable in the Strasburg/Harvey era. That’s a remarkable accomplishment in itself, not even considering the dominance he displayed through most of the last two months.

“I expect to do that, but you never know what’s going to happen in this game. Things can change real quick for you. You don’t want to take anything for granted. So it’s good to come in and see all that work kind of pay off for you to an extent, as far as that goes,” said Bumgarner.

https://youtu.be/ER9uDa1je1Q

He was stoic in the way that he answered tonight’s questions … but the pain of how his night went and how this season ended clearly ate at him. It was tough to see him falter like this, especially with Kershaw pitching a gem like that. But as Posey said, Bumgarner should still be very proud.

Extra BASGs

— Kershaw was just filthy tonight, allowing just two baserunners all night and striking out 13. There were so many pitches that completely baffled the Giants, none more than that curveball he threw to Jarrett Parker. That thing made my stomach turn like I hit an unexpected bump on the highway, and I was just watching from the press box. He’s going to get 300 strikeouts this season if he pitches on Sunday … let’s see if he can put his past playoff woes behind him.

— Bochy spoke to the team after the loss, and he let the rookies know how much he appreciated their collective effort.

“You looked out in the lineup, at times there were four rookies, if not more. They played well. They didn’t play like kids. They played like men. And they should feel good about that.”

— Bumgarner echoed that sentiment:

“I think we should be pretty proud of (staying alive until Sept. 29). Especially the young guys that came up and stepped in. They’ve done a terrific job, all of them. They came up and played like veterans when we needed them to. It speaks a lot about these guys’ character and the kind of team we’re going to have going forward into the future.”

— A Brandon Crawford foul ball came within three feet of destroying my computer.

— The clubhouse wasn’t exactly light and happy, but it wasn’t excessively somber either. The Giants knew this was coming at some point. Tim Lincecum slowly walked by during Bumgarner’s postgame interview on crutches, and even though he was neither a great contributor to this year’s team or really expected to do all that much in 2015, seeing him hobble past seemed to represent how the team finished out the season.

A year ago around this time, the only significant loss was Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence was screaming this team into the Wild Card game. Pence only played about a third of this season, but they stayed in contention until close to the end without so many key players and a starting rotation that at times was held together with twine and Grateful Dead songs.

However, while there were no tears, there was a quiet sense that today’s blowout loss and the season as a whole would quietly burn in the players’ minds during their long offseason.

“Everybody has to remember that feeling. It’s not a fun feeling,” Bumgarner said. “You want to be the one celebrating. We’ll just have to take that into the offseason with us and let that give us a little bit of fuel for next year.”

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