Summer turned to fall nine days early in San Francisco. When Joe Panik and Buster Posey hit back-to-back doubles in the first inning, and the legitimate sellout crowd screamed while waving orange rally towels, it felt at least nine days later than September 12. Generally these feelings are accompanied by nail-biting baseball, but the Giants scored four in the first, two in the fifth and three in the seventh in a 9-0 rout that had to be alarming for the Dodgers.
The Giants are coming, and the footsteps are as loud as the AT&T Park crowd was in that first inning.
“It’s probably as close as you can get to a playoff atmosphere without actually being in the playoffs,” said Madison Bumgarner, who pitched seven strong innings and picked up a milestone along the way.
It was the Giants’ 10th consecutive win at AT&T Park and their 13th victory in their last 16 games. They’ve picked up 3.5 games on the Dodgers over that span, and a ton of confidence along the way.
“I feel like it’s as good as it could be,” Bumgarner said. “We’ve turned it on at the right time and things are starting to go our way. We’ve got a lot of guys that have been here and done this before. They know what to expect, they know what it’s like coming up to finish off September and hopefully in the postseason.”
We don’t know if this was a statement game yet, because the Dodgers could win both games over the weekend and wipe this game from our collective memory. The Giants will face Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, and the Giants played their ace card on Friday night. But the beginning of this game and series couldn’t have gone any better for the Giants.
Hyun-Jin Ryu faced nine batters in the first inning, and after that his night was over as he left the game with left shoulder irritation. Bumgarner struck out his 200th batter of the year in the second inning, becoming the fifth left-handed pitcher in Giants history to reach that mark. Then he went ahead and struck out eight more to beat Ray Sadecki’s San Francisco Giants record (207) for a lefty.
Bumgarner allowed just three hits and two walks and earned his 18th win of the season. I know, I know. Kill the win. But like I said before, if he gets 20, everyone around here is going to care at least a little, even if they swear they don’t.
“There are a lot of good pitchers in the National League this year, but I think he should be up there in the Cy Young voting,” said Brandon Crawford. “He’s done this all season.”
So much has been made of Angel Pagan’s presence at the top of the lineup, as well as Bumgarner’s prowess as a hitter in 2014. They were the only Giants in the starting lineup not to collect a hit on a night when the Giants hit their first home runs since Saturday in Detroit. Crawford smacked a two-run shot into the first row of the arcade in the fifth inning off Carlos Frias, and Travis Ishikawa crushed one that landed in McCovey Cove.
Crawford seems to be finding a second wind as the pennant race goes from marathon to sprint with just 15 games left in the regular season.
“It feels like September,” Crawford said. “It’s been a long season, but hopefully we have another month and a half or so left.”
— The Dodgers’ hitters are going to come out swinging angrily tomorrow after just three hits on Friday night — one of those was an infield single by Juan Uribe.
— Tim Hudson will start on Saturday night. He’s only faced the Dodgers once this season: one run and eight hits over six innings in a 7-4 win in L.A. back on May 11.
— Posey and Hunter Pence had two hits each, and Panik broke the ice with his shot down the right field line of Ryu, but the production from the 6-7-8 spots in the Giants’ lineup was a big part of the story offensively. Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco and Crawford all seem to be getting hot at the right time, and they went a combined 5-for-9 with three walks.
— Bumgarner struck out three times, including once with the bases loaded. “Don’t think I wasn’t trying,” said Bumgarner, who already has two grand slams on the season and swung hard enough at the second and third pitches of that at-bat to turn a normal person’s spine into Marco Scutaro’s.
— Bumgarner also showed extreme flexibility in the first inning, as Justin Turner’s comebacker bounced off his glove and his body and into the air. Bumgarner pursued the ball, fell to a knee and winged a throw to first base. The video is here if you’re interested in taking a look.
“I don’t even know what happened on that one,” said Bumgarner. “I missed it and it hit me in the shoulder and bounced around everywhere. I was happy to get the out, but I would’ve rather had the double play.”
— Ishikawa’s home run was the Giants’ 67th splash hit, and Ishikawa’s first. “It took me eight years to finally do it,” he said.