Much like Sunday’s 9-6 win over the Colorado Rockies, the San Francisco Giants looked at the preferred template — a mistake-free, crisp baseball game — and splattered it with a giant Madison Bumgarner snot rocket. The Giants made several mistakes in this game, and Bumgarner committed the only fielding error charged to the Giants, but he gets a free pass.
First, Bumgarner pitched his ass off. Second, fielding Bryce Harper’s bunt wasn’t the easiest play in the world. Third, with the way Brandon Belt ran the bases barely anyone who watched this game will remember Bumgarner even making an error.
Before we get to Belt, Bumgarner deserves some praise. How much? At least a metric ton or three. The first two games of this series were marked by offensive outbursts for both sides (the Nationals’ offensive effort on Monday perhaps a little more bursty), but this three-game set was supposed to be about each team’s rotation. Ryan Vogelsong vs. Gio Gonzalez ended with the former taking his worst beating of the season and losing his NL ERA lead to Tuesday night’s pitcher for the Nationals, Jordan Zimmermann.
Zimmermann (2.38) kept his ERA lead for the time being over Johnny Cueto, but he was out-dueled by Bumgarner (who snuck into the top-10 in the ERA race after allowing one earned through nine — his ERA currently sits at 2.97). Bumgarner was efficient, he mixed speeds and locations, and made the Nationals’ hitters look like the Padres a night after they looked like the 1975 Reds. But don’t use the s-word when talking about him.
“I’m not trying to be a stopper or anything like that, I’m just trying to come in and pitch,” Bumgarner said.
It’s been a while since Bumgarner has had a bad start, but the last one came in Washington — when he allowed 7 ER and 3 HR to the Nats.
“He’s really remarkable how he can bounce back after a rough start against a particular team,” Bruce Bochy said.
“That last game it was hot in Washington. In talking to him, he said, ‘You know, I kind of lost my focus I was probably more focused on getting through the heat, making sure it didn’t affect me,’ and probably lost a little concentration out there on getting the hitter out as much as battling the weather.”
“I grew up playing in the heat over there. That day, it had been a long time since I’ve played in a hot day game like that. 11 o’clock especially. I was focused more on not letting it bother me more than anything I was doing,” Bumgarner said.
He sure did.
— And now for Belt, who hit a ball off the top of the left field wall in his first at-bat. It was an impressive poke to the opposite field, and it drove in the first run. Belt also made the first out of the inning at third base on the play, as he seemed to be almost jogging around the bases until attempting to speed up between second and third … to no avail.
In the 6th, Belt came up with Pablo Sandoval on second and Hunter Pence on first. He hit an even more prodigious drive than in the second inning, this time to right field, and man did he admire that thing. He watched the ball soar, trotting as if it were already in McCovey Cove. When the ball once again bounced one foot below the top of the wall, Belt again tried to go from second to fifth gear after rounding first base. Again, he was thrown out.
“Quite a game he had. He swung the bat well. I guess he went to the theory: I’m going to run until they tag me,” Bochy said.
For Belt’s thoughts on the matter, watch the video below. I asked a question 15 seconds in (50-second video):
— Pence went 3-for-4 and avoided embarrassment tonight on the basepaths, but was involved in a very interesting defensive moment on a deep fly ball to right center, where he dribbled the baseball. There were two awesome parts to this play:
2. In the above .gif, check out Angel Pagan. What is he doing, seducing the wall? “The wall, it is like a woman. You must caress her, but not give her too much of the Pagan!”
— Pence talked about the play in this video, where I asked midway through if Pagan called him off. For some reason I have this feeling that the hardest part about joining the Giants for Pence might be getting used to playing next to Pagan. Pence does some weird things in the outfield, but they usually turn out okay. When Pagan gets weird, things can unravel quickly out there. (54 seconds)
— Everyone was asking the players what they thought of the lineup after the win, since this was the first time Sandoval has started with Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey and Pence (plus, Marco Scutaro, Belt and Brandon Crawford are hitting pretty well these days). Here’s what Bumgarner, Sandoval and Pence had to say (52 seconds):