This was one of those games where any fan who was wearing orange and black in the Dodger Stadium stands will brag about how they were in attendance for the rest of his or her days. The official score of pitchers’ duels is 2-1 (although the judges will also accept 1-0), and Madison Bumgarner was just that much better than Clayton Kershaw in a 2-1 road victory for the defending champs.
For the first time all season the Giants looked like a team defending its title on a night that wasn’t marked by gold jerseys and fancy rings. Bumgarner has gotten incrementally better in each start since tossing BP at Petco, but Tuesday night’s performance made his oft-mentioned postseason workload look a bit smaller in the rearview mirror.
He was also pissed off, and a pissed off Bumgarner isn’t just entertaining, he’s usually really damned good. He stared at Enrique Gonzalez after the rookie held onto his bat for an extra second or so on his high double to center — a fly ball that seemed to make Angel Pagan dizzy. Bumgarner got angry with himself when he couldn’t get a bunt down against Kershaw with Joaquin “The Most Unlikely Kershaw-killer Ever” Arias on first base. Then he made sure he got some quality venting in — even with Yasiel Puig on the disabled list — when Alex Guerrero thought he just missed hitting his sixth homer of the season (and second off Bumgarner) and did a slow 360 in disgust while leaving the batter’s box.
Bumgarner yelled at Guerrero as he ran down the first base line, and didn’t seem all that interested in forgiving or forgetting as Guerrero retreated to the Dodgers’ dugout. You half-expected to see the reigning World Series MVP throw down his glove and yell “LET’S GO” again. But unlike his fellow countryman Puig, Guerrero knew better than to poke the lion.
Update (9:15 am): Deadspin posted a GIF of this and wrote the following:
The moment above, in which Bumgarner mouths “You’re not that fucking good, man. You’re not that fucking good,” to Dodgers third baseman Alex Guerrero is kind of hard to explain. Guerrero wasn’t showboating his way through a home-run trot, but running out a weak pop up that had elicited a frustrated little spin from him at the plate. If you watch the video, it sure doesn’t look like Guerrero is trying to do anything other than express frustration with himself. Madison Bumgarner should try to remember that a little chill never hurt anyone.
For one thing, they’ve got some amazing lip-readers over there at Deadspin. Also, I doubt Bumgarner “mouthed” those words, as he probably yelled them loudly enough for everyone in both dugouts to hear. Lastly, why are certain writers so interested in protecting Yasiel Puig’s right to flip bats after hits both great and small, while Bumgarner isn’t allowed to yell at a guy on the field? Don’t we want more colorful displays on our baseball fields, or does that only pertain to Dodgers hitters? I’m a fan of Deadspin, which does a great job keeping the national media honest, but they should save the self-righteousness for when guys throw at each other.
The pitching was the actual story, and Bumgarner had it all going. His fastball was consistently at 93-94, and for the first time all season he was able to elevate without getting into trouble. His slider was absolutely filthy, and the curveball wasn’t bad either. Bumgarner allowed five hits, a walk and a relatively cheap run over eight innings while striking out a season-high nine. His best K was his last, as he painted the outside corner with a fastball that left Justin Turner with no response other than to drop his bat and wait for his teammates to join him on the field for the ninth inning.
A few minutes later, CSNBA showed Bumgarner in the dugout. He held this expression for the entire time the camera was on him, at least four seconds.
He just came about as close as one could come to shutting down the Dodgers, who came into this game riding an eight-game home winning streak. He’s a postseason legend and he has his own Carhartt commercial running on national TV. None of that matters — Bumgarner is still ornery. He and Kershaw are the latest reminders that this rivalry will never die, even if Kershaw is like a nicer version of Ned Flanders.
Buster Posey loves swinging at the first pitch. That’s not exactly a well-kept secret. So it’s surprising that Kershaw gave him something to hit in the fourth after Posey hit a flare to right-center to give the Giants a 1-0 lead in the first inning on the first pitch he saw. Maybe Kershaw figured it was as good a time as any to see if he could challenge Posey, whose home run just to the left of straightaway center field was only his fourth extra-base hit of the season, the second in his last 14 games.
— It shows just how well each pitcher was throwing that only three runs were allowed. Pagan’s first inning double came on a swing that was all upper body, yet it still landed a foot below the top of the wall in left. Pagan has really strong hands, but the ball seemed to be carrying a little better than usual.
— Arias went 3-for-3 off Kershaw yet was replaced at shortstop by Brandon Crawford in the seventh for defense. In this case it meant Bochy got everything he could’ve imagined out of Arias, whose throws are the equivalent of a 57-mph serve from a pro tennis player. Brandon Belt struck out three times against Kershaw (it’s been a rough last few days for Belt, who went from two games on the bench to starting against a guy he’s hitting below .100 against), but he made a great pick on a short-hop lob from Arias to end the fifth inning.
— Bruce Bochy had an interesting game, as he somehow saved Pagan from getting ejected after the center fielder struck out in the sixth on a pitch in the dirt. Pagan felt like Gary Cederstrom was too generous in calling Kershaw’s 0-1 curveball on the outside corner a strike, and Pagan is one of the best players in baseball at letting a home plate umpire know when he’d recommend LASIK. Bochy rushed out of the dugout (relatively speaking), and somehow Pagan was allowed to take his bat and angry expression to the dugout when in most situations he would’ve been sent to the clubhouse.
— And I’m not sure what Bochy was reacting to here, right before the pitch Guerrero hit before doing a frustrated and far less graceful version of Barry Bonds’ famous pirouette.