Many years from now, we’re all going to glorify what we saw tonight. Embrace it. Don Drysdale throwing brushback pitches at Willie Mays and Willie McCovey sounds downright sexy now. At the time, well … it was probably pretty cool to watch back then, too. But the fans who watched those scenes play out didn’t know they were watching history — they figured they were watching a big mean right-hander, who led the league in HBPs in each of the four seasons after the Dodgers moved to L.A., do his thing against two great Giants hitters.
Madison Bumgarner is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he’s also one of the biggest. Despite what you think of Yasiel Puig, he is also very good and very large. These two can’t stand each other, and I can’t really blame either player for what went down tonight.
Bumgarner got screwed on an outside corner pitch at the belt that should’ve struck out Justin Turner. It was called a ball, so Bumgarner threw a pitch that grabbed some more of the plate and Turner hit it over the left field wall. Bumgarner had Puig behind in the count a couple minutes later, and threw a slider that was supposed to end up low and inside. That’s where Posey’s glove was set. Purpose pitches generally aren’t thrown at batters’ feet. But this one clipped Puig, who sat on the ground and may have thought …
- “These guys hit me in the first inning for the second night in a row.”
- “Hey, this Bumgarner guy always seems to be on my case.”
- “He’s walking toward me and staring me down.”
- “I should probably get up and wave my arms a bit. I’ve heard that’s the only way to scare a large predatory animal that’s approaching.”
Nothing really happened. It was a standard basebrawl, where cooler hotheads prevailed. Then Bumgarner gave up a two-run home run to Matt Kemp, who along with Zack Greinke is a pivot point through these late series between the Giants and Dodgers. Sure, Turner hit like a man who consumed an illegal amount of Lucky Charms after batting practice, but Kemp and Greinke were the difference in this game. Let me explain.
Kemp is like Hunter Pence, in that he’s a star who isn’t THE STAR on his own team. Pence couldn’t care less. Ask Pence a question about himself and he’ll look at you like you’re offering kale fried in trans fat and coated in powdered sugar. Kemp would love to spend his spare time crowd surfing across all of Los Angeles, with the city’s entire population singing songs about his greatness in 20 different languages. Kemp has been a much better player than Pence in these head-to-head games — not just this series, but throughout the season. Pence came into this game hitting .221/.289/.309 against L.A., and he went 0-for-4 on Tuesday. Kemp came into tonight hitting .328/.377/.609 and raised his home run total to five against the Giants in 2014.
Then there’s Greinke, who’s got to be the most frustrating player on the Dodgers roster for Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean. No one in baseball matches Clayton Kershaw, but Madison Bumgarner comes damned close and absolutely crushes Kershaw in the small sample size, large memory world of postseason play. The Giants don’t have a Greinke. Matt Cain hasn’t been anywhere near that class for two years, and he’s broken. And on Tuesday night, the Dodgers’ No. 2 was a little better than the Giants’ No. 1.
Then you have Kershaw going tomorrow against Tim Hudson, the pitcher you’d almost want to risk arrest to run out and hug during the first inning when things go south. The Dodgers are probably going to clinch the NL West tomorrow, unless the baseball gods want to punish the Dodgers for the bubble machine and post home run “selfie” celebrations.
— Bumgarner hit his fourth home run. Other than the bottom of the first, this was all any of us will remember from this game.
That is not what a pitcher is supposed to look like when he hits a home run. His weight was on his front foot, and the swing wasn’t even super-crazy-torquish. Not like a usual Bumgarner swing, anyway. But the guy is so strong, just squaring up the ball will lead to a home run. Kind of makes you think maybe he shouldn’t swing as hard as he does sometimes. Some of Bumgarner’s hacks probably put slight tears in Michael Morse’s obliques. That would explain a lot, actually.
That fist pump and yell equaled hope. Bumgarner went full Tiger, which he’s done a couple times lately against this team. If there’s anyone on the roster who really gets the Giants-Dodgers rivalry, it’s the man who was born in Hickory, North Carolina.
— Why not let Bumgarner hit in the eighth? What, Chris Dominguez or Travis Ishikawa is going to do better against Greinke? Alright, Ishikawa may have been the smarter play, but I would’ve had a difficult time betting against angry Bumgarner in that situation.
— Boy, Pence has been struggling lately: .127/.213/.182 over his last 15 games. As great as he’s been, performing well in late-season games that mean something in the standings hasn’t exactly been a strength since the Giants acquired him. What he does has tremendous value, but cold Pence is about as useful as microwaved pizza. It’ll sustain you better than nothing at all, but it’s not something you want every day.
— Pablo Sandoval saw eight pitches in four at-bats.
— Brandon Belt may have struck out three times in three at-bats, but he succeeded in either scaring or confusing this lady with his on deck circle routine after breaking his bat on a foul ball down the first base line.
— I’ve been to a couple Dodgers games in the last two years, so the wave doesn’t surprise me anymore. But it definitely makes one wonder how many of the fans who attend these games have any idea what they’re watching. If we had Tuesday night’s crowd read the first two paragraphs of this story, how many names would they recognize? I’m guessing one, on average.
— The Giants fell a game behind the Pirates in the wild card race. The Giants’ magic number to clinch a wild card berth is also one, but Wednesday’s play-in game looks like it’ll take place in Pittsburgh (Pirates hold the tiebreaker).
— I thought the “Bullpen Report” of Baggs’ latest Instant Replay was fairly amusing, considering the silliness that happened before this game (a game the Dodgers won 4-2 … probably should’ve included that earlier).