Bengie Molina

Madison Bumgarner’s debut, inning by inning

First inning: Duane Kuiper says if you put your hand on Madison Bumgarner’s chest, it would vibrate. I guess Kuip’s talking about your hand, although I guess it could work both ways. You’d have to imagine that would be true, although you couldn’t tell by looking at the kid. He’s cool.

As for how he pitched, his stuff in the first was less impressive than his control — especially for a 20-year-old making his Major League debut in a pennant race. Everything either around the corners or just off. Easy comebacker for the first out, weak flyball to right from David Eckstein, and a weaker grounder to second from Adrian Gonzalez. Nice start.

Second inning: Bumgarner’s motion is like the anti-Lincecum: controlled, easy and seemingly effortless. Doesn’t seem like he tries to muscle up on the fastball like Jonathan Sanchez is wont to do, either.

Grounder up the middle by Kouzmanoff is fielded easily by Freddy Sanchez for the first out, but Chase Headley follows with a line-drive  homer to left field, one of those dingers that makes you certain the air is still at AT&T Park, at least for now. Oh well, had to happen. Not like the kid was going to throw a no-no in his first outing … and he’s on a pitch count, anyway.

Nice job by Bumgarner to get a grounder to third from Salazar, then a seeing-eye base hit to the right side by Will Venable. Doesn’t matter, as Bumgarner gets another comebacker from Nick Hundley, which not only ends the inning but ensures that Kevin Correia will lead off the top of the third. You know Sanchez would have walked both Hundley and Correia right there if he made his debut at age 20.

Third inning: Even though Bumgarner’s stuff doesn’t look exactly nuclear, he strikes out his first two hitters, and they’re in a row. But the most impressive bat is against Gonzalez, after walking David Eckstein (is there anything more irksome than watching Eckstein sprint to first base after a walk like he’s in the Little League World Series?). Bumgarner starts off Gonzalez with a 78 mph slider for a strike, and keeps him off balance the entire at-bat before inducing another weak grounder to second base.

Bumgarner looks pretty tight out there, but the good news is he isn’t forcing velocity or walking consecutive hitters.

Fourth inning: Wow, Kouzmanoff just teed off on Bumgarner, who’s been tossing a few too many get-it-in fastballs at the belt. Deeeeeeeeeep home run to left, can’t blame the relative lack of wind for that one. I have no doubt Bumgarner’s future is bright, but I’m starting to wonder if he’d be out of this game already if he weren’t facing the Padres.

Next pitch after the homer is a 90 mph fastball at the knees for a strike against Headley, another good sign. Unfortunately, another mediocre fastball at the belt is knocked into centerfield for a single a couple pitches later. Mike Krukow made the point that when a pitcher is nervous, he often finishes upright, making it harder to keep the ball down.

Maybe he should be in the stretch. One pitch against Salazar, and Bumgarner gets a double-play grounder to third. Still kind of worrisome that Bumgarner can’t break 90 on the gun, though. So his velocity’s down, too? Don’t tell me Bumgarner’s back is bothering him. Um, just kidding, Bumgarner just struck out Venable. All is well.

(An aside: how many out-of-towners are going to require an explanation as to why the Giants now have gigantic mascots of middle-aged white guys running around between innings? The sausages in Milwaukee are pretty self-explanatory. Huge-domed Kruk and Kuip racing each other? What’s next, a panda mascot? Oh, wait…)

(One more side note: Madison Bumgarner can hit! If he didn’t get jammed, he would have taken Correia deep in the bottom of the fourth inning. In a rotation of Lincecum, Matt Cain, Bumgarner, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez, Sanchez better step his game up at the plate for fear of getting made fun of by the rest of the staff.)

Fifth inning: After the Giants got a gift run on a David Eckstein f—up (and how often have we ever been able to say that?), Bumgarner trots out to the mound with a lead. And he somehow strikes out Hundley looking on a frisbee breaking ball that to a better hitter would have traveled roughly 425 feet into the seats.

Correia immediately comes up and whacks an 89 mph fastball at the belt into left field for a single. Then Bumgarner’s first pitch to Everth Cabrera is a filthy curveball in the dirt, followed by a roller to Edgar Renteria who throws out Cabrera after a barehand pickup. Then, after a sneaky backdoor slider, Bumgarner gets Eckstein to ground out to first.

So far I’ve decided that the Bumgarner era has been a fastball disappointment and a breaking ball revelation, and the true measure of his ultimate fame will be if I can ever type the word “Bumgarner” without it getting that red spellcheck underline.

Sixth inning: After Gonzalez raps a liner to Aaron Rowand for the first out, Bruce Bochy comes out and takes the ball from Bumgarner, then hands it to him and says, “Here ya go, kid. You deserve this. There’s no way the Padres come back with the bullpen we got.” OK, maybe not. Can’t really complain about this decision; the Giants have an expanded roster, the kid leaves with a lead and nobody left on base and Bumgarner finishes the outing he’s been waiting for his entire life with a chance to get his first Big League win. He probably feels so relieved that a 10-hour night of sleep seems inevitable, except he’s going to have one of those nights after you do something well when you lie in bed with your eyes wider than the Sham-Wow guy.

Wait, this post just went into the Rick Reilly zone with that comment; how about “eyes wider than Gail Devers”? Too long ago? How about “eyes wider than Jennifer Wilbanks”? Still not timely enough? How about “eyes wider than Mischa Barton after an all-night session with Lindsay Lohan”? Too Perez Hilton-y? I give up.

Bumgarner’s final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER (on two solo homers), 1 BB, 4 K, 76 pitches, 48 strikes, 1 deep fly ball hit to left that scared the crap out of Correia, 2 snot rockets on television at the same time Kruk and Kuip were talking about him, 1 mention from my girlfriend of how tan he is (after which I considered trying to convince her that Bumgarner’s actually a Dominican name, but thought it sounded to Larry Kruegerish) and 65 times the person writing this post thought about Tim Lincecum’s back issue and immediately had to start thinking about something else to keep sane.

(Hey, Larry Baer … psst … you know that money you saved this year, only having to pay Lincecum $650,000? It’s time to protect your investment with some massage, accupuncture, pool time and the most comfortable airplane seat known to man. I don’t know where that seat is if it does exist — and according to United/Lufthansa, it definitely does not — but Lincecum better be in it. God, I hope the Giants are just giving Timmy rest, but are saddling him with this supposed minor back injury in order to allow themselves the chance to bring up Bumgarner without getting questioned and rest the Majors’ 2009 pitch-count leader at the same time.)

No more Bumgarner win: I’ve decided to keep on writing since the Padres tied this game with another solo homer (this time by Venable on a juicy curveball from Brandon Medders).

— Nate Schierholtz, in on the double switch, smacks a ball to the opposite field, caught by Headley at the wall. Besides Kevin Frandsen of course, nobody on the Giants has a higher percentage of caught line drives than Schierholtz. Or at-bats that start out looking great and end in weak pop flies to shortstop too, if we’re being honest.

— Can Buster Posey get an at-bat? Is that too much to ask? If we ever see Bruce Bochy motion for Posey to come sit on his lap, we’ll know something fishy is going on.

— Yeah, this whole live blogging thing isn’t that great after Bengie Molina drops a strike thrown from right field on a play at the plate. The fact that the Giants have only mustered 3 runs over eight innings against Correia on a night when the ball is carrying this well is just difficult to analyze for any longer.

The situation is clear: the Giants are banking on getting rid of a ton of money in the off-season, and they’ll have that to spend on players they think can hit better than the players that will be leaving (or aren’t even playing, but just sucking up Giant paychecks while becoming the Bip Roberts of NESN). Whatever happens this year is gravy, because once Bumgarner loosens up and starts slinging it 94 mph like we all have heard (and some of us seen) the Giants will have the best rotation in the NL next season. Hopefully they’ll have a lineup that can surpass 5 runs at least half the time.

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